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Without making a sound, the self-driving shuttle starts up. With a connection to satellites and sensors that notice any other road users or obstacles on the way, the shuttle gets an overview of the route and finds its way safely to DTU Lyngby Campus. But how does it feel to use the transport of the future without a driver behind the wheel? And how can a self-driving shuttle become a part of our public transport? That is what the partners behind the LINC-project will investigate – with support from students and employees.
“We have been excited to get permission to test the shuttle, so that in the future we can give the citizens a new public transport service. We imagine that the self-driving shuttle will be a good supplement, for instance, to the upcoming light rail in the metropolitan area. The shuttle will help passengers in that last stretch from the station to work, home or school,” says Kenneth Jørgensen, Senior project manager for LINC in Gate 21.
Besides the partnership organisation Gate 21, Albertslund Municipality, Gladsaxe Municipality, Nobina Denmark, IBM Denmark, RUC and DTU are involved in the project. The partners are now starting to collect data from the passengers at DTU.
Students and employees can sign up as test passengers. That means that during the test period up until summer 2021, they can use the shuttle for free and simply answer some surveys, that RUC and DTU, among others, have created.
“We need to investigate the interaction between people and the self-driving technology. How do we react to it? Do we feel safe? Does it work in our everyday lives?” says Hannah Villadsen, PhD and Postdoc at Institute for People and Technology at RUC.
“The test at DTU is of course an ‘artificial reality’ because we are not allowed to drive very fast, and because there is a steward present. But the test passengers’ inputs are important to understand how we can use the technology in the future.”
DTU Compute has developed an app-solution for the project. It connects data from the surveys with data on the test passengers’ movements on campus, made available through GPS and Bluetooth beacons set up at bus stops, in the shuttle and in the buildings near the shuttle’s route at DTU.
“We have taken the app a step further. It is not just a tracking app, where we can see how many people are using the self-driving shuttle. We can use it as a tool and integrate it with a survey. Because of the Bluetooth beacons we can analyze data more precisely, as passengers move around. This can hopefully provide a more detailed insight into their transport patterns,” says Per Bækgaard, a lecturer at DTU Compute.
The app is supported by a major piece of development and data collection work, which takes place in IBM Cloud. IBM Denmark has collaborated with DTU to develop different functionalities that can display data for the researchers and send out special surveys via the app – so-called event triggered surveys – to test passengers in certain situations.
“It can occur, for example, in connection with a sudden emergency stop, where we have the opportunity to communicate directly with the present test passengers about their experience in the shuttle, via the app. In this way we can receive instant feedback on the situation. It is a unique way to collect data about our public transport that does not exist today,” says Claus Klint, Director Internet of Things, IBM Denmark.
The bus operator Nobina Denmark, which has obtained the trial permit, and is responsible for the operation of self-driving shuttles at DTU, is excited about the data that will be collected during the project:
“The input from students and employees at DTU are helping to shape how we can deliver new public transport to the citizens in the future. In LINC we work with the idea that the self-driving shuttles can be connected to the upcoming light rail stations in the capital region – and thereby strengthen and increase the reach of public transport. Self-driving shuttles are a dynamic supplement to existing modes of transport, driving in fixed routes and lanes. This gives the passengers flexibility, and it can bring them closer to their destination,” says Rasmus Noes, Market and Business Development Chief at Nobina Denmark.
The three self-driving LINC shuttles will run at DTU Lyngby Campus until the summer holidays. The LINC project is founded by the project partners and the EU program Urban Innovative Actions.
Do you occasionally visit DTU Campus in Lyngby? This could be as a student, employee, or guest – or perhaps you live in a dormitory? Then become a test passenger in the three self-driving shuttles that will run in the southern part of the campus from April 2021 until the summer holidays.