The Evolving Roles of the Attendant
In most countries, a human attendant is still required to be on board autonomous vehicles that are carrying passengers. At first these were called safety drivers, which makes sense for vehicles that retain human-driving capabilities (steering wheels, brakes, etc.) for specific maneuvers and use the driver as a back-up resource to stop the vehicle if it malfunctions. But the term didn’t really fit autonomous vehicles that have removed these human-driving features. The role these employees play varies depending on the service provider and on the use case.
On board staff are also there to welcome and educate passengers and gather data. While they can intervene if needed, that is not their primary function. They are called “Grooms” or “Attendants”. As the name implies, Attendants pay attention to the vehicles’ operations and provide an interface for both passengers and fleet operators. They can also play the role of a field agent, a kind of mobile supervisor that can exchange data with the operators’ control centers and act on the ground to ensure the service continuity.
Getting Useful Data
Gathering and using data from autonomous cars and services is one of the prized advantages of the vehicles’ and the technology that operates them. During this interim period, where regulations require an attendant to be on board, a mobile Attendant App can dramatically improve data collection and enable it to enhance the quality of autonomous vehicle-driven services. The attendant can also provide context for alerts and data that is generated, making it easier for operators to interpret and respond appropriately.
Beep AV Solutions: Using the Attendant to Improve Service
That’s what leading U.S. AV shuttle service operator Beep has found. Beep operates multiple public and private services in Florida and Arizona and has quickly become one of the world’s largest AV service providers.
The CTO Perspective with Beep’s Clayton Tino
Beep has opted to use the field agent model for its attendants, and Beep CTO Clayton Tino has found that with the right tools, dramatic efficiency gains and service improvements can be made. In the following Q&A, he explains how an integrated fleet orchestration platform makes Beeps shuttle networks optimize performance.
How do you use attendants on your fleets and how do you communicate with them?
We use Bestmile’s Fleet Orchestration Platform to provide central supervision of our fleets, design services, automate service delivery by directing vehicles, and monitor their performance. Our attendants on the shuttles are there to educate riders, to perform passenger counts and to report incidents.
We also use Bestmile’s integrated Attendant App to communicate with on board staff. The app extends much of the Bestmile Platform’s functionality to the attendants, vastly improves data recording, and allows us to act faster to improve fleet performance.
How did you communicate with the fleet before using the Attendant App?
Before using the Attendant App, reports were written down manually and delivered at the end of a shift. Then our team had to cull through the paper reports to identify issues and anything about the service that needed improvement. Or we would have to sift through telemetry data to detect performance issues. With multiple vehicles in four different services areas, these limitations can slow data collection a crawl.
With the Attendant App, all reports are performed with push-button simplicity, delivered to our command center in real-time, and displayed on the Bestmile Dashboard so that our staff can take action faster. When an attendant reports the same incident multiple times—braking at the same location, or intersections that get backed up we can make adjustments to improve the service. For example, a vehicle may stop or brake because it detects vegetation on the road that wasn’t there before–a tree or shrub that wasn’t there in the fall but has grown in the spring. We can immediately send a crew out to remove the obstacle.
How do you use this data beyond responding to incidents?
Because the Attendant App delivers this kind of data from all of the vehicles in our fleets, we can aggregate the data and measure KPIs throughout the entire fleet, even if composed of different vehicle brands. Tracking these KPIs helps us better understand vehicle performance. This is especially helpful as we add vehicles from multiple manufacturers, making vehicle performance much easier to compare. KPIs can include battery usage, the number of manual interventions needed, unexpected stops, total miles driven, traffic choke points, and where the shuttles might be causing traffic slow-downs.
This kind of real-time data collection and automation is needed for autonomous fleets to scale. We use the Bestmile Fleet Orchestration Platform and Attendant App for multiple fleets with vehicles from different brands in multiple cities and states, and it supervises all the fleets from this single platform. Our mission is to deliver the best service possible. Plain and simple, Bestmile’s Attendant App enables us to use real-time data to continually improve the passenger experience.
“Plain and simple, Bestmile’s Attendant App enables us to use real-time data to continually improve the passenger experience.”