Driverless shuttle service at the Port de Barcelona
EasyMile combined with Pendel Mobility and other technology partners to test a new, safer and sustainable form of transport at the busy Port de Barcelona.
The port saw record traffic in the first half of 2022 (1.8 million twenty-foot-equivalent units between January and the end of June), and the project was launched to test out a safer and more-sustainable form of transport for workers and visitors to the site, as part of the EU-wide autonomous vehicle project Ride2Autonomy.
The pilot, which launched in May 2022, also included the Port de Barcelona’s innovation team, consultants Bax&Company, , bus and coach operator ALSA and representatives of Spain’s Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT). The objective was to deploy an autonomous shuttle in real-life conditions and understand the main regulatory and operational steps needed. After the first month of operation, the pilot had already sparked interest from operators and the public. There was considerable interest (from employees and innovation managers) in continuing to explore use cases for autonomous vehicles within the port area.
Autonomous shuttle in a dense mixed-traffic environment
The autonomous shuttle operated on a public route in a morning and afternoon session, 7:30–9.30 and 15.30–17.30, from Monday to Friday, transporting port workers between a parking lot at the Port de Barcelona and the World Trade Center, where many employees work.
The 1.9-kilometer round trip runs through a dense, heavily frequented area with mixed traffic conditions, including traffic lights, roundabouts and intersections without priority.
There were several challenges along the route, which were a valuable test of the autonomous vehicles’ capabilities. Hundreds of heavy vehicles and taxis access the port every day, the shuttles travel at a reduced speed compared with other road users (15km/h), and many of the roads were bordered by trees, which can be perceived by autonomous vehicles as potential obstacles. The shuttle was able to operate successfully throughout the pilot.
The model used was EasyMile’s EZ10 3rd-generation shuttle, which runs safely and effectively in varying traffic conditions and changing weather conditions. Multiple sensors and software installed in the shuttle allow for operations at Level 4 autonomy (vehicles operating without human supervision in a known environment). However, for the duration of the pilot phase, travel was limited to Level 3 autonomy. A safety operator was present on board to interact with passengers and take control in manual mode if necessary. If the bus detects unexpected objects (people or obstacles) in its immediate surroundings it will either slow down or stop completely.
The pilot project at the Port de Barcelona is one of multiple test sites in the EU-funded Ride2Autonomy (R2A) project. Its objective is to demonstrate autonomous shuttles’ integration into the transport system in 10 cities across Europe. The project was set up to develop new mobility concepts for passengers that lead to healthier, safer, more accessible, sustainable, cost-effective and demand responsive transport.
With a variety in approach, context and providers across the participating cities, R2A will provide useful guidance for other cities wanting to deploy autonomous vehicles. The project analyses the system performance in terms of safety and environmental impact, as well as assessing its multimodal integration into the transport network. It also monitors response from the public, individuals and the socio-economic potential of the services.
This pilot serves as a kick-off for Pendel Mobility, as well as for the Port de Barcelona in the path to deploy autonomous mobility in the near future and at a bigger scale.