AU­TO­MATED MASS-TRAN­SIT IN­QUIRY LAUNCHED

ABC (Australia) - - NEWS -

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.”

EX­PERT OPIN­IONS

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.

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