In the last year, Brakar, the Public Transport Authority (PTA) in the city of Kongsberg in Norway, has replaced two regular city buses with two shuttles from EasyMile. Our next step in Testsite Kongsberg City&Lab is to take the safety operator out of the autonomous shuttle, and to use the remote tower solution from Applied Autonomy to remotely control the vehicle operations.
We have been operating autonomous shuttles in mixed traffic during winter conditions in Kongsberg and Spitsbergen, and our daily commuters find the service safe and request for more innovation and faster speed.
Our first launch with a city service in mixed traffic for tourists and city visitors was in June 2018 in Gjøvik. There we got valuable experience with the challenge of steep slopes for sensors and the mechanics of the vehicles. Based on this first launch, improvements of software and mechanics was performed before our next step started in Kongsberg. In September 2018 started the longest and most challenging operations with autonomous shuttles so far in the world.
The aim was to learn how the vehicles perform in different conditions. Valuable experiences and improvements has been made during our continuous operation. We have operated during changing seasons with different challenges including falling leaves, heavy rain and a lot of snow.
Even Santa Clause was able to use our service during a busy Christmas Eve.
The winter months learned us a lot about how autonomous vehicles behave in low temperatures (down to -18 degrees celcius), falling snow and snow banks in narrow city streets. Snow banks closer than 30 cm was a constant issue, likewise parking of cars along the streets. Our common ambition was to keep the vehicles going within the same budget for snow plowing as previous winter, and we made it with a good communication tool from Applied Autonomy.
Kindergartens, school classes and seniors have been invited to discuss solutions for the future transport system in Kongsberg, and have given their feedback about the implemented transport service. Their involvement has proven very valuable to our commutions of the service of autonomous vehicles. We are sure that these activities have improved the awareness of public transport in general, and how citizens of Kongsberg view innovation in public transport. Usage of public transport has increased by 15% in Kongsberg the last year.
As a consequence of this pilot, Brakar has by replacing ordinary city buses with electric autonomous shuttles, reduced their CO2 emissions. The number of passengers has increased by 5% and the feedback from passengers has been very positive.
VY is the PTO, and Applied Autonomy is responsible for safety, security and the remote tower solution “Autonomous Mobility Enabler (AME)”.