Simultaneous AV Bus Trials for Five European Cities

Five European cities will host simultaneous autonomous public transport bus fleets in what is, arguably, the natural home for driverless technology.

Three consortiums of companies have been awarded the contracts to trial the driverless buses by the Fabulous procurement partners. The companies will pilot autonomous buses as part of existing public transport systems and the fleets of three buses each will be piloted in Gjesdal, Helmond, Helsinki, Lamia and Tallinn between April and October 2020.

Fabulous is a three-step pre-commercial procurement (PCP) project that aims to deliver a proof-of-concept for automated last-mile public transport as part of the existing transport system. So far it has run two phases of the project to select the best three consortiums to run the real-world trials.

The ambitious of the third phase of the PCP is to verify and compare the prototype solutions in real-life conditions. Based on an assessment by the technical evaluation committee and the external evaluater panel, three consortiums were invited to partake in this final phase that includes:


  • The Sensible 4 – Shotl Consortium comprising two partners: Sensible 4 from Finland and Shotl from Spain. The consortium is using the automated Gacha bus from Sensible 4 and MUJI;
  • The Mobile Civitatem Consortium comprising four Estonian partners: Modern Mobility, Tallinn University of Technology, AuVeTech and Fleet Complete. This consortium is building and testing their own autonomous vehicle – Iseauto;
  • The Saga Consortium comprising four partners: Halogen, Forus PRT and Ramboll Management Consulting from Norway together with Spare Labs from Canada. The consortium will work with one of the established European shuttle manufacturers.

In the third phase, the consortia receive up to €740,000 euros ($821,000) excluding local taxes to validate their prototypes, prepare pilots and implement operational systems. Two further pilots are expected to be launched in Lamia in Greece and Helmond the Netherlands in autumn 2020.

During the six-month field trials, the functionality, interoperability and security of the autonomous fleets will be assessed. All the pilots will take place in urban settings but each pilot location has its own special challenges. In Gjesdal, there is a 12% incline owing to the mountainous terrain, whereas in Lamia high temperatures must be successfully managed. In the Netherlands the large number of cyclists must be taken into consideration and in Helsinki the route passes the second busiest train station in the country. In Tallinn, the connection to the airport will be improved, leading to challenges with factors such as existing bus traffic.

In all the locations, the shuttle services will be tested to ensure the functionality of remote operation from the control room. The buses must be able to autonomously overtake obstacles such as parked cars. The shuttles are expected to be driverless and a safety pilot will only feature on board if local regulations stipulate.

The overall stated aim of the scheme is to accelerate the introduction of new types of automated last-mile solutions entering the European market. When the trials have been complete, the procuring cities and preferred partners will initiate a public procurement of innovation. This follow-up procurement will be a topic of discussion during the Fabulous final conference which will take place on 26 November 2020 in Helsinki.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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