Autonomous “PostBus” Shuttles Launch In Switzerland

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A new autonomous passenger bus shuttle service has been launched in Sion, Switzerland — the first “endurance” test of an autonomous passenger service in the world, according to those involved. (Hat tip to Craig Morris for the news.)

The recent launch event for the PostBus Smart shuttles was attended by Mayor Marcel Maurer, amongst others. He commented at the time (as it was apparently a fairly warm day for the region) that “the air conditioning in the Smart Shuttle is not really effective.”

You would think that such an important occasion would warrant a somewhat more serious comment, wouldn’t you? But perhaps not.

The driverless electric minibus being used for the service, the ARMA, is manufactured by the French firm Navya. The bus was tested by those behind the new service on a private road for 6 months before the recent launch.

PostBus 7

As the original coverage is in a language that I’m not fluent in, I’ll just go ahead and post some interesting excerpts here directly from the Google translation of the original article:

In order for the Smart Shuttle safe on it’s back and forth with three LIDAR sensors (Light Detection and Ranging – as laser or 3D scanning known). With different radii and angles they take care of the 3D perception of the environment, the mapping of locations and accurate to 5 centimeter positioning. The exact position of the vehicle is also detected by a GPS sensor. A stereo vision camera helps the Arma to detect obstacles and assess their position relative to the vehicle. Also it helps in the analysis of the traffic environment (road signs, traffic lights, etc.).

The whole monitoring software developed by the start-up BestMile closely with Navya. BestMile is a spin-off of the Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL), the activities leading to the development of the system. The so-called fleet management takes care of the operational control of the driving shuttles and any emergency measures. These monitors a teleoperator in the operations control center continuously use the autonomous shuttles and can immediately intervene and stop the bus from a distance also. Even tasks such as dispatching, routing, Auflademanagement and maintenance planning can be controlled with the software. On the platform dock at various passenger information systems as smartphone app and stop display.

In addition, a “safety driver” on board of the autonomous se shuttles during each trip. These riders or “Grooms” as the operator calls, the same function is fulfilled as “the person who accompanied the first personnel lifts and thus emblematic of a pioneering technical achievement were” as Daniel Landolf, chief of PostBus Switzerland in his opening speech explained.

The Grooms are responsible on site for the use of surveillance, the proper functioning of the shuttles and the safety of passengers. You can by one of the two emergency buttons perform an emergency stop, inform the passengers and help them getting in and out (about wheelchairs or strollers). Using a joystick, the security operator can, if necessary, also make minor corrections of movements.

The service, utilizing two of the autonomous ARMA minibuses in order to run a circular course through the “labyrinthine” old town of Sion, will run until at least late 2017. Shuttle service will run weekly from Tuesday to Sunday — with Monday as a maintenance day.

Photos via PostBus

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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