LEVITATE partner in the spotlight

Questions to Helmut Augustin, City of Vienna

Q: Please, introduce yourself shortly: what do you do in Vienna and what is your role in the LEVITATE project?

A: My name is Helmut Augustin. I hold a degree in Urban Planning. I have been working for the Vienna City Administration since 2004, currently in the Urban Planning Department, Section Mobility Strategies, as head of the Coordination Unit for Digitisation. I cover quite a big range of topics including (geo)data, quantitative analytics, data protection, Intelligent Transport Systems, Automated Driving and Geographical Information Systems.

Q: As a city partner, how do you contribute to project LEVITATE and why did you join the project?

A: I think the most important thing is that we bring in the perspective of a local government and a road authority. I think it is crucial to add this perspective to the discourse about CAVs (Connected and Automated Vehicles) which is otherwise quite industry-driven.

Q: What are Vienna’s views on and vision for connected and automated transport systems in an urban context?

A: We welcome CAVs if they are able to contribute to our smart city goals, in other words, they help us remain one of the most liveable cities. But our general approach is: Autonomous Vehicles must adapt to the needs of the city and its inhabitants, not the other way round.

An important point is how an automated transport system affects space consumption. Space is scarce in cities. It must be used as efficiently as possible. The most space-efficient and energy-efficient transport modes are by far walking, cycling and mass transit. There is an impressive picture by We Ride Australia which illustrates this. Therefore, we see CAVs as complementing, not competing with public transport. So, they should primarily operate in peripheral areas and between, not parallel to major axes of public transport, where current systems of public transport have weaknesses.

Another important point is compact settlement structures, including in rural areas, because CAVs might promote longer driving distances and consequently urban sprawl.

Q: What about safety?

A: This is primarily a topic for the national and European level. Our request is that CAVs must deal with conventional traffic participants, especially in mixed traffic with pedestrians and cyclists. Of course, CAVs must not expect vulnerable road users to be equipped with electronic safety devices.
CAVs shall only be permitted if proven to be significantly safer than human drivers.
CAVs must be safe on their own and responsible for their actions.

Q: Will automated driving require lots of new roadside infrastructure?

A: ITS roadside infrastructure might provide additional layers of safety. But CAVs must never rely primarily on ITS infrastructure, or they will be restricted to use specially equipped corridors only. Our position is that CAVs shall adapt to public spaces, not the other way round. They must be able to deal with the existing traffic guidance facilities.

I believe the possible shortcomings of CAVs at the current state of technical maturity should not be compensated by costly public roadside infrastructure. Rather this is a task for R&D units of automotive manufacturers. In this respect we need to ensure that international standardisation is not at the expense of those who maintain public roads.

Q: And what about dedicated lanes?

A: Cities have made great efforts in reducing barriers in urban space. They have constructed bridges, under- and overpasses, crosswalks and passageways. The goal is a walkable city and attractive public space.  Dedicated lanes, especially those with physical barriers, clearly do not comply with this strategy.

In contrast we can imagine that CAVs offer new opportunities for attractive public space and liveable streets. CAVs follow regulations, are supposed to be safe and eco-friendly. Thus, they might work a lot better in shared spaces than conventional cars currently do, once initial technical weaknesses are overcome.

Q: Will CAV change the way traffic management works?

A: Traffic Management is increasingly driven by algorithms and data. We must therefore increasingly target Navigation-Systems rather than human drivers. As data-based traffic management and decision support requires data, public authorities need access to this data, including in-vehicle generated data. Of course, we only require statistical, fully anonymized data.

My vision would be that dynamic and comprehensive incentive systems manage the traffic flow. Routing is based on the optimum for the whole system (rather than individual optima). System overloads can be detected in advance and minimized. And as already mentioned: AV services complement, not compete with public transport.

Q: When do you think automated transport systems are going to be widespread in urban areas?

A: This is really hard to answer. Let me ask more pertinent questions. The critical point is not when CAVs will arrive in urban areas. Rather the critical questions are: Will cities be ready in time? In which framework will CAVs operate then? Which rules will they follow?

Q: Will Vienna be ready in time for a future with CAVs?

A: We are working on that on different levels and aspects. One important contribution will come from the LEVITATE project. This should help us getting a deeper understanding of the effects different policy options might have.
So being optimistic, I would conclude, “yes, we will be ready in time!”.

Automated vehicles and COVID-19 – what we can learn from it

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted the world nearly to a standstill. There has been a massive economic, social and welfare impact and the common factor is mobility. In LEVITATE, we are investigating the impacts of Connected and Automated Transport Systems (CATS) on our society. COVID-19 has been catastrophic event at world level, but we must learn from this tragedy and understand the implications for CATS era.

Urban Transport
The introduction of point to point, anywhere to anywhere or last-mile automated shuttle services maybe beneficial during a pandemic such as COVID-19 crisis. Highly automated shuttles (level 4 onwards) will remove the need for a driver and hence the risk of infection. Furthemore, a more frequent service may be offered, to accommodate the reduced passenger capacity of vehicles due to social distancing, without the growth in operational costs associated with the driver. In order to minimise the possibility of contamination and the spread of the virus, the supply of antiseptic materials for all users and workers, proper air conditioning and regular disinfection of the shuttles will need to be guaranteed.

Conversely, the reallocation of road space and modal priority, in favour of pedestrians and cyclists, could present a challenge to automated shuttles due to their cautious nature in the presence of these active modes whose movements are hard to predict by automated vehicle technology. This could significantly impact on the speed and overall efficiency of the shuttles, at least until the point where level 5 shuttles offering greater ‘intelligence’ than humans are mature and widely rolled out.

Passenger Transport
A personal passenger car that is manually driven in today’s scenario is no different to a personal automated passenger car in the future scenario. However, in a shared-car model, the vehicle could contribute to the spread COVID-19 if the vehicle is not thoroughly cleaned. Therefore, it will be paramount that the shared cars are cleaned regularly and that it is clear whose responsibility it is to keep the cars clean. It is probable that the shared-car usage will be discouraged in similar circumstances to COVID-19 and perhaps public behavior might shift towards active travel mode and personal car usage. More space allowed for active travel will increase car traffic as capacity for them is reduced. This could be mitigated by introducing staggered shift working pattern (perhaps even combine with alternate days) for those involved in less essential work that cannont be done by staying at home.

As mobility is restricted, there has been natural decline in traffic incidents, but it is arguable that crash severity would increase due to increased speeding. Automated vehicles without ability to alter the speeding behaviours, and associated to reckless driving, will benefit in minimising the safety impacts due to driving behavioural changes resulting from open roads.

Freight transport
During the COVID-19 crisis, major commercial facilities such as shops, markets, restaurants have either shut or people have stayed away due to the health risk. Therefore, demand in e-commerce or food delivery service has increased significantly. For example, Carrefour reported that the delivery of vegetables has increased by 600% during the lockdown period in China [1]. In addition, contactless delivery has become a standard or even requirement in many countries to protect delivery personnel and customers.

This overlaps with the main vision of future logistics concepts, which foresees the automated distribution of goods and even the handover process without human interaction. However, contactless handover requires infrastructure, for example the current state-of-the-art foresees physical internet boxes (supplier side) or white label parcel boxes (customer side). During the COVID-19 crisis, contactless delivery has been performed without either of these. Currently, most people are at home and therefore, the now applied procedure to place the goods in front of the customer’s door, ringing the bell, and walking away works well and (small) failures are accepted by the vendor.

Although the current lockdown and curfew will finally come to an end soon, we are aware that pandemics such as COVID-19 may strike the globe again. Therefore, further developments with respect to automated contactless handover technologies must go on. For a full rollout of automated delivery, we do not know yet who will win the race: automated handover infrastructure or level 5 automated transport. In the end, both will be necessary for automated delivery of goods.

[1] Campaign. COVID-19 media and consumption impacts in China: By the numbers. Retrieved online on 2020-04-28: https://www.campaignasia.com/article/covid-19-media-and-consumption-impacts-in-china-by-the-numbers/458225.

 

 

 

 

Watch first webinar: the future impacts of automation in freight transport

Will freight transport and logistics become safer, more effective or integrated as a result of automated technologies on the market? Find out by watching the first LEVITATE webinar!

The first LEVITATE webinar on 23 April was framed around the opportunities and challenges that freight transport is facing as a result of innovations in automated technologies. Looking at the current situation we are living in, discussions were also focused around the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the sector. Furthermore, expected changes in the implementation and operation of freight and logistics systems in the post-COVID times were on the table.

The webinar was kicked off by Pete Thomas, project coordinator of LEVITATE, who gave a brief introduction about the project. It was followed by a LEVITATE-focused presentation from Bin Hu, Scientist at the Austrian Institute of Technology, who is leading the freight-related use case in the project. He presented about the impact of automation on urban parcel delivery through the results of micro-simulations and operations research carried out in the framework of the project.

Thanks to Fernando Liesa, Secretary General of ALICE (Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe), attendees learnt about the work of ALICE and how they help European logistical companies to keep up with developments and new strategies through collaboration and knowledge-sharing. The main research question which has been answered was how automation can help freight transport and logistics to reach zero-emission targets by 2050 and become more integrated on a European level. Fernando also pointed out some new challenges in the face of COVID-19 in relation to protecting vehicle drivers and riders during the pandemic by using automated technologies.

Last but not at least, Kris Neyens, Manager at VIL (Flemish Innovation Cluster for Logistics) presented one of their own projects after introducing their multidisciplinary collaboration in the Flemish freight sector. In project ALEES (self-driving logistical electric units for urban environments), VIL is testing autonomous urban logistical entities to distribute parcels throughout dense urban areas, for example through a demonstration in Mechelen to develop the software behind the technology and create the legislative environment for future operation. If you are curious about the previously mentioned project, you can read more here or we welcome you to watch the presentation during the recorded webinar below.

LEVITATE in TRB annual meeting 2020

Perhaps the biggest transportation research conference in the world – TRB – took place this year from the 11th to 16th of January 2020. LEVITATE could not be missing from this prestigious event, and this year, the project was represented by several members: Dr Alkis Papadoulis, Prof Pete Thomas and Prof Mohammed Quddus from Loughborough University, Dr Jordi Casas from Aimsun and Prof Eleni Vlahogianni from National Technical University of Athens. As expected, Connected and Automated Transport Systems were one of the themes that dominated the agenda of the conference as they have been the research focus of industry and academia for the last few years.

TRB is always an excellent opportunity for European and International projects to interact with each other and attempt to learn from each other’s research. The members of LEVITATE, attended lectern sessions where several CATS-related projects were presented (Co-Exist, HumanDrive among others), and the following conclusions were drawn.

  1. Connected and Automated Driving data are starting to emerge. Microsimulation software companies are starting to develop their “autonomous” vehicle algorithms based on this data and several studies are starting to employ these models in order to evaluate the impact of Connected and Automated Vehicles in simple road network layouts. These studies could potentially be very useful for Levitate, as they can provide a basis of comparison for the results of Levitate and they can provide useful guidelines regarding the configuration of driving models in order to simulate connectivity and automation.
  2. The definition of Connected and Automated Vehicles in simulation terms hasCa not advanced significantly during the last few years. This is where Levitate will aim to contribute by defining new CAV behaviours that will emerge due to the sub-use cases so cities can evaluate them in the Policy support tool.
  3. The transferability of results is still an on-going and sensitive topic for simulation-related projects as simulation models are location specific and models must be individually tailored for each different city of interest.

Additionally, LEVITATE’s most recent piece of simulation work on parking pricing policies in the Connected and Automated Vehicle era was presented in the Freeway and CAV Simulation subcommittee. The session was well attended from experts of the field and the members of the project received very useful feedback that will help strengthen the sub-use case work in the future.

The project is looking forward to attending more meetings in Europe and worldwide in order to exchange opinions and thoughts about its methods and assumptions.

VIDEO: LEVITATE project introduction

Pete Thomas, Project Coordinator, and project partners from the National Technical University of Athens and the University of Michigan express their views on the LEVITATE project during the second Consortium meeting in The Hague.

Have a look at the video:

2nd Stakeholder Reference Group workshop takes place in Brussels

The LEVITATE Stakeholder Reference Group met for the second time in the project’s lifetime for a workshop held on 26 November in Brussels. 37 people from across Europe, including many representatives of local and regional government, took part. The workshop provided an overview of the mechanics of the launch of the developing Policy Support Tool, which will be one of the main outputs of the project and is being  established to enable policy makers and planners to run their own assessment of the potential impact of connected and automated transport systems in their city or region and across several transport policy domains.. Valuable insights were collected on how to further develop this tool.

The aim of LEVITATE’s Policy Support Tool (PST) is to help public authorities predict the impact of connected and automated transport systems (CATS) and identify policy interventions to help achieve certain long-term mobility goals and/or to mitigate the potential negative effects of vehicle automation. A variety of stakeholders attended the meeting: local and regional authorities, national authorities, national road operators and researchers.

The workshop opened with an introduction by Suzanne Hoadley (Polis) on the vision of Polis on automation and other European projects related to automation, followed by Pete Thomas (Loughborough University), who introduced the LEVITATE project, its objectives and the aim of the workshop.

The first session focused on giving an overview of  the Policy Support Tool (PST): its components, what it can and cannot do, what input will be required and what the output might look like. George Yannis (National Technical University of Athens) demonstrated how the tool could work in the future, based on different assessment methods. He also presented one practical case to illustrate the tool’s expected functioning, doing so in a step by step process.

The different CATS impact areas were presented by Rune Elvik (Institute of Transport Economics), followed by an explanation of why they were selected (for more information on the impacts of CATS you can consult this report). Wolfgang Ponweiser (Austrian Institute of Technology) gave an overview of the CATS policy interventions (related to urban transport, economic incentives, access and space allocation). He introduced the backcasting method as a tool to predict the impacts of CATS, highlighting that backcasting starts with the city’s vision – the targets cities want to achieve.

After these presentations, the participants broke up into four smaller groups to discuss the PST and the backcasting methodology. Participants gave their views on the PST structure that had been presented, its usability and the functionalities it should have, and reflected on the reasons why they would use it. The challenges that could be faced during the development of the PST were also discussed, and some ideas on how it could be improved arose. During the discussion, participants also provided insights about the policy interventions they considered to be the most relevant.

Their feedback was collected by the project partners, who closed the session by reflecting on the main conclusions of the workshop and laying out the next steps for the LEVITATE project.

LEVITATE partner in the spotlight

Questions to Anna Craciun, Transport for Greater Manchester

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is the local government body responsible for delivering Greater Manchester’s transport strategy and commitments. TfGM is committed to leading change and supporting the 10 Local Authorities within Greater Manchester with the implementation of new technology and mobility solutions underpinned by our 2040 Transport Vision and Innovation Strategies. Anna Craciun is TfGM’s lead on  project Synergy and project LEVITATE which have become the foundation for TfGM’s developing Policy and Deployment Strategy for autonomous vehicles.

Q: As a city partner, how do you contribute to project LEVITATE and why did you join the project?

A: Innovation is imperative for the transport sector and TfGM have built a long term portfolio of forward-thinking pilots and projects, including LEVITATE, which are aligned with our 2040 Transport Vision. Project LEVITATE enables TfGM to respond to the fast-paced autonomous mobility sector with robust resources like the Policy Support Tool being developed by the LEVITATE consortium.

Q: What are TfGM’s views on and vision for connected and automated transport systems?

A: The future of commercial automated transport services and their operation in complex urban environments is still uncertain and TfGM, like others, is not in a position to predict this. Instead we can create robust strategies to ensure Greater Manchester becomes a hub for innovation. Extensive collaboration with a myriad of UK and international partners such as the Depart for Transport, the Law Commission, UITP and POLIS has allowed us to develop a set of “guiding principles for automated transport” that will ensure autonomous vehicles emerge in line with our wider vision for Greater Manchester.

TfGM are also supporting the work University of Salford are carrying out as part of their Automotive and Autonomous Vehicle Technology Course that launched in September 2018. This is a great step towards strengthening the labour market in Manchester and strengthens the links with our academic partner in finding new solutions for cyber security and traffic control through live testing and behavioural analysis.

Q: How and in which context are you planning to use the Policy Support Tool? In which way will it be useful for a city in general?

A: Being part of the LEVITATE project has enabled TfGM to input into the development of the PST. This will ultimately allow us to validate the tool and align its outcomes to our 2040 Transport Strategy and our emerging Greater Manchester Policy and Deployment Strategy for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

The PST will be a fantastic way for local authorities to consider how they can futureproof their infrastructure, data governance and local policies so that CAV services will be able to operate on their roads and seamlessly travel across district, and even regional boundaries. The tool could also provide a pathway to implementation of the Regional Strategic Principles as it would highlight any shortfalls that different authorities will need to overcome to ensure they are CAV-ready.

Q: When do you think automated transport systems are going to be widespread in urban areas? How do you see this evolution in a short, middle and long timeframe?

A: The driving force (excuse the pun) behind the technology is not the same as that behind public regulation, therefore estimating a timeline for market penetration and uptake in usage/ownership could misinform decision makers. Instead, governing bodies should direct their efforts towards upskilling their staff on new legislation such as GDPR and towards considering what this might mean for new modes of mobility.

CAVs are already being tested in managed and mixed-traffic environments as part of trials and are operating in segregated environments such as university campuses, however, to gain a broader vote of confidence, legal and ethical frameworks must be established at the national and sub-national level so that manufacturers and operators have cohesive guidelines to adhere to.

In the short term, I think the focus may be on connected (and not necessarily autonomous) vehicles, harnessing the benefits this can bring in terms of the data they will generate.

Q: In your opinion, what role should a transport authority, like TfGM, play in relation to the development and deployment of CAVs?

A: TfGM, like other transport authorities, is already engaged in a series of activities relating to the testing, development and deployment of CAVs. I think what makes us stand out is that we are developing our strategy alongside project partners, district colleagues, public and private stakeholders and Greater Manchester Residents.

In October we held our first Citizen’s Conversation on Driverless Mobility. This was a full day workshop with almost 100 residents from across Greater Manchester that allowed us to share the work we have completed so far, ask for advice on which use-cases we should focus on and understand the work we still need to undertake.

Our role, as a transport authority, is to continue this sort of work; first identifying what our resident’s priorities and needs are, and then looking to innovations like CAVs to see how they can be deployed in a way that addresses these priorities.

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For more information email to: innovation@tfgm.com or anna.craciun@tfgm.com

Defining the future of urban, passenger car, and freight transport

LEVITATE is currently building tools to help European cities, regions and national governments prepare for a future with increasing levels of automated vehicles in passenger cars, urban transport services and urban logistics. The project is preparing a new impact assessment framework to enable policy makers to maximise the benefits of connected and automated transport systems (CATS) and utilise the technologies to achieve societal objectives.

Defining the future of urban, passenger car, and freight transport

Recently several reports have been published within the LEVITATE project. A set of three deliverables provide the working framework under which each of the project use cases and its impacts, can be defined. Namely, Defining the future of urban transport (D5.1); Defining the future of passenger car transport (D6.1) and Defining the future of freight transport (D7.1).

Findings were obtained in two ways: through literature review, and through a dedicated stakeholder workshop to gather the views from a group of experts (Stakeholder Reference Group or SRG) on the future of CATS and their application. This workshop was held in Gothenburg on 28th of May 2019 and counted with the participation of 40 experts. An informed list of sub-use cases of possible interest from a CATS perspective was developed for use cases of urban transport, passenger cars and freight transport

Overall, according to workshop experts, CATS are mainly expected to supplement public transport functions. The deployment of cooperative, connected and autonomous vehicles may have considerable impacts on urban transport operations, through advanced city shuttles and other micro-transit vehicles. There are many opportunities that would be available through these new technologies and cities would need to prepare to take full advantage of them. The report aims at defining expected penetration rates, influenced by market forces and technology adoption. In general, the reviewed literature suggests the future of CATS to be positive in terms of their impacts on traffic, safety, environment, economy and mobility. However, their uptake is most likely to be influenced by trust and user’s acceptance.

Initial screening of literature on connected and automated passenger cars suggests that they have potential to increase the capacity of lanes and lead to a reduction in congestion and fuel consumption in the short-term. However, they could increase travel demand due to changes in destination choices (for example, longer journeys), changes in transport mode (shift from public transport) and introduction of new users. Various forecasting studies show that the claimed (by CATS industry) benefits of the widespread use of automated passenger cars for personal use, would only be achieved if we move from a privately owned to a shared-ownership model. In addition, the use of automated passenger cars for personal use is more likely to be lower than their use as mobility services due to the prohibitive initial vehicle purchase costs.

Compared to passenger cars, user acceptance of CATS technology in urban freight is less of an issue. The reason is that these vehicles are acquired and used by freight operators. Freight vehicles can be regarded as tools and driving as a job. Therefore, commercialisation of automated freight vehicles has different driving factors to automated passenger cars. Roadmaps of European associations, however, differentiate between urban freight transport and long-distance freight transport, with CATS having a major role in the latter. A literature search on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (automation level 1 and 2) show their impacts on traffic, safety, environment, mobility and society. The systems are similar to those of passenger cars, with the exception of a few systems such as speed limiters or automatic electronic tolling system which are more relevant for freight vehicles. The consensus of the SRG was that collaboration between freight operators should be achieved by facilitating data sharing, utilising consolidation centres, and improving last mile solutions.

The findings of these deliverables will be key in the further development of the use cases and provide the foundation for subsequent work to look at short-, medium- and long-term impacts.

You can access all the publications and learn more about the project here.

A taxonomy of potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles

LEVITATE is currently building tools to help European cities, regions and national governments prepare for a future with increasing levels of automated vehicles in passenger cars, urban transport services and urban logistics. The project is preparing a new impact assessment framework to enable policy makers to maximise the benefits of connected and automated transport systems (CATS) and utilise the technologies to achieve societal objectives.

Deliverable 3.1: A taxonomy of potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles

Recently several reports have been published within the LEVITATE project. Deliverable 3.1, A taxonomy of potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles at different levels of implementation focuses on the identification of potential impacts of CATs and indicators that can be used to measure these impacts.

D3.1 provides an inventory and classification of impacts of CATS at different levels of implementation and on different topics such as road safety, mobility and efficiency, environment, economy and society. A distinction is made between direct, systemic and wider impacts. Direct impacts are changes that are noticed by each road user on each trip; Systemic impacts are system-wide impacts within the transport system; and wider impacts are changes occurring outside the transport system, such as changes in land use and employment.  Furthermore, a distinction is made between primary impacts and secondary impacts.

The report highlights that the actual impacts of connected and automated transport systems are unknown and will remain so for a long time. However, potential impacts can be identified, and preliminary estimates can be developed. Most analysts believe that a wide implementation of CATS will improve road safety and possibly the efficiency of traffic operations. However, the reliability of automation technology is currently unknown, and there will most likely be unforeseen and rare events that we cannot be taken into account. With regards to policy making, the report points out that highly uncertain estimates of impacts may serve as the basis for identifying policy interventions to increase the likelihood that impacts will be in the desired direction (e.g., policies that can help prevent the urban sprawl that CATs are expected to increase).

The findings of this deliverable will be key in the further development of the use cases and provide the foundation for subsequent work to look at short-, medium- and long-term impacts.

You can access all the publications and learn more about the project here.

Launch of EC’s CCAM platform

The inaugural meeting of the EC’s Connected, Cooperative and Automated Mobility (CCAM) platform was held on 25 and 26 June 2019 in Brussels.

The purpose of this EC platform is twofold: (i) to coordinate efforts related to the open road testing of connective, cooperative and automated mobility in Europe; and (ii) to identify research needs for the imminent European partnership on CCAM research and innovation.

The platform is made up primarily of Member States and approximately 30 associations, including LEVITATE partner Polis.

The plenary session took place on 25 June whereas the kick off meeting of the 6 platform working groups took place the day after on 26 June. The working groups are:

  • WG1: EU agenda for CCAM testing
  • WG2: R&I project coordination
  • WG3: Digital & physical infrastructure
  • WG4: Road safety
  • WG5: Cyber security & in-vehicle data
  • WG6: Connectivity

The membership application process remains open. Click here for more information.

The next meeting of the working groups will take place on 9 September 2019.