AUTOMATED MASS-TRANSIT INQUIRY LAUNCHED
FOLLOWING a raft of sundry industry-associated white papers and grey literature on autonomous buses and ‘driverless’ vehicles over the past few years, the Australian Federal Government has announced its own inquiry into automated mass transit.
The House of Representatives Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee commenced this new inquiry focusing on developments in the use of automation and new energy sources for land-based mass transit, it states.
Committee Chair John Alexander said that automation would make our mass transit systems “better, stronger and faster”.
“International experience of automated metro systems shows what they could do to improve connectivity within our rapidly growing cities,” Alexander said.
“Automation and platooning present real opportunities to make bus networks more reliable and responsive, as well as more efficient, creating real competition between different modes of transport.
“In addition, new fuel sources – such as electricity and hydrogen power – have the potential to make mass transit cheaper, reduce our carbon footprint, and reduce our reliance on the importation of fossil fuels.”
Throughout the past few years various commercial vehicle, bus-related and greater public transport organisations have produced their own in-depth literature to investigate the issues surrounding the imminent mass use of automated transport.
A recent white paper called The Real State of Play in Self-driving Buses, written by David Panter and commissioned by globally reaching transportation-technology building Trapeze Group, piques interest immediately in asking: “Autonomous cars are currently getting a lot of media attention. So are self-driving buses. Media announcements routinely advise that the world’s first self-driving bus is starting service in Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, China, Sweden or one of half a dozen other locations. It sounds exciting, but does the reality match the hype?”
Most specifically for public transport, Trapeze’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) expert Panter raises the point that: “[Buses] present a number of challenges that autonomous cars and trucks do not need to be concerned about.”
WORKS IN PROGRESS
Examining the issues of ticketing, security, passenger pick-up, route learning, engine [motor?] power, legislation, and customer acceptance, it ultimately examines what manufacturers and companies are doing.
“With all these additional demands on self-driving buses, it is no surprise that their development is not as mature as the self-driving car. However, things are improving. There are multiple trials underway around the globe and some vehicles are now operating on the open street. But, whilst an internet search will yield lots of stories about self-driving buses about to deliver services, there are all too few examples where this is actually happening.”
Even still, for those that are out there it states there are still some issues that need to be worked through, from the open-sided approach of some designs, which may not win over customers in the rain or extremes of heat and cold, to low-powered engines that preclude the use of these shuttles on anything but flat ground.
Ultimately, it says, “regardless of the vendor, integration with the transportation control system is a vital part of making the most of these disruptive offerings.”
“Automation and platooning present real opportunities to make bus networks more reliable and responsive.”
Above: The Committee will inquire into and report upon current and future developments in the use of automation and new energy sources in landbased mass transit.