May 6, 2020
As one of the measures of the action plan “automated – connected – mobile“ the Contact Point Automated Mobility was established at AustriaTech in 2016. Since then, it has been the first contact point for questions concerning the testing of automated vehicles in Austria – legally and technologically. The Monitoring report, which is published annually by AustriaTech, provides information on current developments, projects and activities in the area of automated mobility in Austria and informs about the implementation measures of the action plan of the BMK.
Self-driving vehicles provide the possibility to stay mobile and take part in social life especially for people who can’t drive, aren’t allowed to drive or just don’t want to. To offer this form of mobility without any barriers, it is up to the cities to intervene in a regulatory way and to build a legal framework for needs instead of profit. Therefore, an impact monitoring is required for the future mobility market of cities.
There are already a large number of offers (like ride-hailing offers such as Uber or Lyft), which lead to a relocation of public transport to driving service intermediaries. This once again means increasing volume of traffic and more traffic jam. But instead of watching the reinforcement of this development, new service-oriented forms of organisation should be supported by target taxes or fiscal instruments for example. Also, the fact that a road is not only an area of traffic but also a multifunctional urban space, must be considered when thinking about futuristic scenarios of automated mobility. Concepts like sharing and pooling help to reduce the space for parked vehicles.
Promotion of knowledge building and exchange of experience
Automated and partly automated vehicles offer an opportunity for sustainable and integrated mobility – a fact that sometimes fades into the background because of a focus on Robo-Taxis and the like. To achieve this, however, cities need to think about new partnerships with mobility providers. In the past, it was necessary to set up transport associations in order to ensure the seamless cooperation of public transport. In the future we will need new organisations to coordinate traffic management with digital and physical infrastructure and data management. “Data“ will be a big topic in the future, too. Cities must develop expertise and understanding in order to be able to control the offers according to their ideas.
Different activities in the area of automated and connected driving show that a digital infrastructure has a high potential to increase the safety and efficiency of transport.
The perceptual horizon of an automated vehicle is limited by the range and performance of the built-in sensor technology. In order to expand this perceptual horizon, support automated driving functions and ensure more safety, road operators should provide information directly through the infrastructure. These would be detected through road sensors.
While modern sensor technology in automated vehicles is capable of covering 200-300 meters of the road using road infrastructure data, the perceptual horizon at critical traffic points could be extended up to 700-800 meters. Thus, objects being hidden or far away could be detected. Traffic and infrastructure data could also be adapted to obtain a consistent „ground truth“. The highway itself – with all its detectors and sensors – becomes another element of the traffic situation as well as in the verification and validation of automated driving functions. Radar, video, lidar and ultrasonic sensors detect the necessary data of the environment, which are already in use in traffic management systems today.
Sensors are already in use
ASFINAG (Austrian motorway operator) is equipped with a variety of sensors to measure data such as temperature, number of vehicles or visibility in fog. Even more sensors were installed along a 23 kilometer test route of Alp.LAB (on the A2 between Laßnitzhöhe and Graz west) to record travel data as accurate as possible in the purpose of research but as well for the support of automated and connected vehicles.
To get the full picture, the different measurement series have to be compared and combined through an algorithm called sensor fusion. This makes it possible to calculate the exact driving behaviour of individual vehicles, the so-called trajectories, on the track from the measured data. These data can be used in simulation programs and show real driving situations in virtual tests.
Several influencing factors must be taken into account so that automated and connected driving can work smoothly in the future. The varying degree of vehicle automation and the technological sophistication of the assistance systems can lead to confusing and insecure situations. With the sensors of a vehicle, the environment can be captured up to a certain perceptual horizon. Today, research usually focuses on the capabilities of the automated vehicle – not on the infrastructure. But the road infrastructure will be important in the transition phase from conventional to automated vehicles. The more “intelligent“ the infrastructure, the safer and more efficient the transport network will be. For this purpose, the so-called Infrastructure Classification Scheme for Automated Driving (ISAD) was developed within the project INFRAMIX (funded by the EU). ISAD is an easy classification scheme, which defines the support of automated vehicles in five possible classes (A to E).
The ISAD-classification scheme should support the timely introduction of infrastructure networks suitable for automation. In this context, critical aspects such as the legal framework, the governance model, possible financial concerns or the introduction of new automated functions in a transport network have to be taken into account.
Experience from various tests and different test areas in Austria could be gathered. After two years of preparation, the test operation of two driverless e-buses with passenger transport in the Seestadt in Vienna was successfully launched in June 2019. A trained operator is on board during each journey and monitors the operation. The almost two-kilometer route in real traffic has ten stops. The preliminary results of a survey of residents show that 80 percent of those surveyed have either already used one of the automated buses or intended to do so.
In the Austrian lead project Digibus® Austria, a consortium led by Salzburg Research is researching and testing the reliable and safe operation of automated minibuses in public transport. In simulations and tests, independence, driving safety, technical infrastructure as well as communication with other road users and passengers will be tested and improved. In 2019, tests were carried out on two public test tracks in Koppl and Wiener Neustadt as well as on a closed test track on the traffic practice area of the ÖAMTC Driving Technology Center Teesdorf.
There was also a no-operator test in Salzburg. In September 2019, the second generation of EasyMile's automated shuttle EZ10 ran without an operator in the vehicle for the first time. It was monitored by one person in a control centre. The test on a closed area at the Salzburgring was only the second driverless test worldwide with a self-propelled shuttle from EasyMile. Salzburg Research carried out a scientific study to test the subjective feeling of safety of the 16 test persons as well as the information transfer and communication between the passengers and the driverless vehicle and the control centre.
As you can imagine, much more is in progress in the development of automated mobility in Austria as well as worldwide. The Monitoring Report „Automatisierte Mobilität in Österreich 2019“ shows projects, best practice examples and general information about automated mobility and its development in 2019. The report (german only) is available here.