The SmartShuttles go on-demand in Uvrier
April 15, 2021 | News
Five years after the launch of the “SmartShuttle” project, world’s first commercial deployment of self-driving buses in public transport, the two automated shuttles “Valère” and “Tourbillon” start a new adventure in Uvrier. After having carried almost 54,000 passengers on the public road network in downtown Sion, the autonomous shuttles now run on-demand in the Uvrier district, with a connection to the SBB train station in St-Léonard, as part of a 6 months test-run. Since April 12th, residents and tourists are able to book for free the autonomous vehicles for their desired route via a dedicated mobile application or telephone. Mayor Philippe Varone is enthusiastic about the new operation: “The shuttles have proven themselves over the past few years. We are pleased that we can now take the next step in Uvrier and cover an entire residential area with an automated on-demand service with the shuttles. “
The deployment in Uvrier is one of first public on-demand automated mobility service in the world. The shuttles do not follow a predetermined route, but instead transport customers from one of the 17 virtual stops to the other as required. Thanks to the large number of stops, all residents of the neighborhood have a stop in the immediate vicinity of their place of residence and a convenient connection to the regional train network.
Bestmile is providing its turnkey solution to automate, manage and optimize the demand-responsive service. In addition to matching customers trips requests with the right vehicle and choosing the best route to destination, Bestmile’s Fleet Orchestration Platform pools trip requests when the time and location and vehicle occupancy allow it. Pooling the trip requests enables PostBus to cater to the individual mobility needs of its customers while being more ecological on the road, as unnecessary extra trips are avoided. Thanks to the Traveler mobile application developed by Bestmile, customers can book their ride in a few clicks. In addition, dedicated integration realised by the HES-SO and Animatico using Bestmile’s APIs allow passengers to view service information and to book a ride directly from a display at the train station.
The aim of the Uvrier deployment is to analyze the value of an on-demand autonomous mobility service in a low-density neighborhood and help refine the public transport strategy.
The two automated shuttles from PostBus were the world’s first automated shuttles deployed in public transport. The success of the “SmartShuttle” project so far has prompted the city of Sion and PostBus to apply for the EU project AVENUE with the support of the Canton of Valais, the mobility lab Sion-Valais, EPFL and HES-SO. AVENUE participates in the financing of test operations with automated vehicles in public transport in various European cities and is part of the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020. AVENUE aims to test viable concepts for highly automated minibuses in urban areas across Europe.
In Uvrier, under the direction of PostBus and the Mobility Lab, the combination of autonomous vehicles and on-demand is being tested, which is a first for the partners involved. The deployment not only promise technological findings, but also provides insights on whether the mobility behavior of the local population changes with the provision of an on-demand service.
Since 2016, PostBus, Bestmile, Navya, the Mobility Lab Sion-Valais and the City of Sion and have been pioneering the mobility of the future. The two SmartShuttles marked the history of autonomous mobility with several world premieres:
• First autonomous public transport vehicles put into circulation
• First connection between an autonomous public transport vehicle and a rail network
• First autonomous vehicle integrated into high density traffic, with passage through traffic lights.
These various experiments have also made it possible to verify the reliability of autonomous vehicles and to better understand the interactions between the shuttles and other users of public space.
The two shuttles operate Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and accommodate a maximum of 4 passengers due to current health regulations. For safety reasons, an attendant is always on board, to ensure the proper functioning of the vehicle and to intervene if necessary. This service is completely free. Reservations are made via the SmartShuttle application (IOS and Android) or by phone on 076 804 80 72.
More information can be found on the website www.smartshuttle.ch
Bestmile empowers public and private mobility providers to plan, launch and operate highly efficient fixed-route and demand-responsive transportation services. A complex arrangement of advanced algorithms enables the Bestmile Fleet Orchestration Platform to automate and optimize operations for ridehailing, microtransit, autonomous shuttles and robotaxi services.
Founded in 2014 with a mission to go the extra mile for mobility, today, Bestmile’s pioneering life-enhancing mobility solutions are deployed around the world moving thousands of people every day.
EU’s 2018 Autonomous Vehicles to Evolve to a New Urban Experience (AVENUE) is an ambitious four-year, €22M project to design and deliver full-scale demonstrations of on-demand autonomous mobility services in seven cities.
The project is led by the University of Geneva and features 16 partners, including academic institutions, public transport operators, autonomous vehicle manufacturers, major technology R&D companies, and specialized start-ups. Its goal is to “pave the way for the full-scale introduction of disruptive door-to-door services and ‘mobility cloud’ strategies in urban transportation.”
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation under grant agreement 769033.