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Ride a robot bus to the beach in Helsinki, one of the world’s most active test cities for robot buses
Helsinki has been determinedly testing robot buses since 2016. The pilots have developed and expanded year by year. This year, you can get on a self-driving bus in smart city district Kalasatama and on a record-long 2.5 km route in the most eastern district Vuosaari. Congested streets full of passenger cars are a challenge for growing cities around the world. Also Helsinki is looking for means to decrease traffic congestion as well as emissions and other climate impacts caused by motor vehicles. A key means to influence this is investment in public transportation, but its proportion of traffic has remained almost the same in recent years. However, self-driving robot buses could increase the popularity and efficiency of public transportation in the future. This is why Helsinki has been testing them for several years. ‘The aim is to use the pilots to learn as much as possible about robot buses even in the early stages of technological development, such as how residents receive them, how they function as a part of public transportation and what they can offer to the mobility of citizens,’ says Jari Honkonen, Project manager at the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki. - Robot buses can change public transportation significantly Helsinki is committed to become carbon neutral by 2035 and, in line with this, recognises that problems associated to traffic and transport need to be tackled. Therefore, the city has laid down in its official strategy to act as a testbed and to promote new mobility technologies - of which automated demand-driven shuttle buses are a notable example. By offering residents an emission-free transportation option, robot buses support Helsinki’s goals of carbon neutrality. “If the robot bus technology develops as expected, they can develop public transportation in a more cost-efficient direction and enhance service levels by expanding its coverage to areas where the lines do not currently reach, making departures more frequent and public transportation more reachable”, Jari Honkonen says. - Helsinki a forerunner in testing self-driving buses Helsinki is working as an active test platform for pilots of smart traffic solutions, and the City’s strategy also aims to promote smart modes of transport. As a result, Helsinki has become a world-class test city for robot buses, where increasingly challenging pilots are conducted in various project each bringing new learnings and increasing know-how in Forum Virium Helsinki and the city’s stakeholders. The forerunner position of Finland is made possible by flexible legislation and the close-cooperation of the public authorities. To support autonomous mobility in the Helsinki region, major stakeholders are working closely together. These include Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, the Helsinki city transportation planning division, the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority and, importantly, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom which is in charge of giving out testing permissions. An important factor for the development of smart mobility solutions has been the EU funding, the projects have received. - Coming up : autonomous buses among traffic without a steward This year, two robot bus lines operate on the streets of the city. Bus number 26R in Kalasatama started in May and will operate until November. This is a pilot by the European mySMARTLife project. Bus number 90R, which started its route recently in June, will take passengers from near the Vuosaari metro station to the Aurinkolahti beach until September. This pilot is organised by Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Forum Virium Helsinki and their partners as a part of the Sohjoa Baltic project. On both routes, the robot bus drives amongst regular traffic and the ride is free of charge for the passengers. The buses will be added to Helsinki’s public transport route planner reittiopas. In the spring of 2020, robot buses are again taking a leap forward, as the significant international robot bus project FABULOS brings self-driving buses for the first time to the streets in various EU countries as a fleet, in mixed traffic in the city centre, without a steward on board and remotely operated from a control room. The companies involved in FABULOS are mostly new to this market, thereby widening the playing field and expanding the choices cities have for this new form of transportation. ‘All these different pilots are part of an ongoing process in which new technologies are gradually tested in increasingly challenging environments and the lessons learned are transferred from one project to another,’ Project manager Ulla Tikkanen from Forum Virium Helsinki explains. There is still much to be tested around self-driving buses, so the pilots will continue for the years to come, ultimately contributing to making Helsinki the most functional smart city of the world.
Avalue Smart Traffic Solution - AI makes effective traffic management possible
In the midst of explosive demand in smart cities worldwide, Avalue Technology with its years of experience in artificial intelligence (AI) and foothold in the Taiwan market has been picked by the Industrial Development Bureau, Ministry of Economic Affairs, as its industry partner to introduce AI into traffic management in Taoyuan City and subsequently implementing integrated solutions into other cities. Avalue will also seek opportunities arising from smart cities overseas under New Southbound Policy, reinforcing what the company values most in a smart city – bringing technology closer to people. Smart Intersection Safety System Getting rid of hardware thinking, the Avalue team focuses on smart traffic solutions by bringing AI recognition system to road junctions where have no traffic signals. For instance, a warning message will appear on the LED screen when pedestrians are crossing the road so as to reduce road accidents; and, upon detecting vehicles on the main road, LED screen on branch roads going toward the main road warn of approaching vehicles at the junction, reminding drivers to reduce speed when approaching the junction, reducing chances of traffic accidents. Monitoring driving behavior to improve passenger safety Integrating hardware equipment and on-board diagnostics (OBD2) in existing buses of bus service operators in Taoyuan, Avalue allows the operators to monitor the status and location of their bus fleets, and even record driving behavior of their drivers to provide passengers with safer bus rides. Not only does it improve passenger satisfaction but also reduce incidents and frequency of complaints for bus service operators. Traffic enforcement with AI technology and ambulance priority pass improve traffic safety and reduce accidents Smart AI detection system installed at bus bays and no-parking/ red-line zones will detect and record entire process of traffic violation, thus reinforcing the public’s compliance with traffic rules, and reducing traffic congestion and demand on policing manpower. Dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) is also used to control traffic signals when an ambulance is passing a junction, preventing the need for ambulances to run red lights, maintaining road safety and increasing rescue efficiency. As cities face greater challenges in traffic management, to meet the demands of a vertical market stemming from the emergence of smart transportation, IoT and AI, Avalue is able to provide customized solutions to meet different cities’ needs with same requirement for traffic management – reduce traffic accidents and congestion, and improve road safety and compliance with traffic rules.
A software robot checks the right for school transport in Tampere, Finland
The City of Tampere, Finland will test a school transport decision system that makes proposals. There is no need for guardians to apply for the right for a child’s school transport; instead, the city automatically sends the decision on the granting of the subsidy. A software robot will check the right for school transport for the school year 2019–2020. The city has started to use a software robot that checks the distance from home to school of all pre-school and basic education pupils with a journey planner. The software robot measures the shortest suitable pedestrian route from home to school. The guardians and school can see the route based on which the software has calculated the journey in the Helmi student management system. - The software robot makes a proposal to the principal Thanks to the software robot, there is no need for the guardian to apply for the school transport subsidy. “The application has been rather burdensome to fill in. The software robot saves up to half an hour of parents’ time,” says Vice Principal Marika Korpinurmi. “The proposals made by the robot save also the time of principals and school secretaries, since robots do not make human mistakes. We have tried to simplify the process.” The software robot makes a proposal to the principal concerning the pre-school and basic education pupils to whom the school transport subsidy should be granted and proposes a suitable mode of transport. “In Tampere, we first offer the right to a bus travel card, but in special cases, it is possible to arrange the pupil’s transport using group-transport taxis,” says Korpinurmi. The principal checks the decisions made by the robot and changes them, if necessary. After this, the robot sends a notification of the decision to the guardians. The proposed school transport decisions concern the subsidies of the school year 2019–2020. The software robot was manufactured by CGI Finland Ltd as part of the Helmi system’s development work.