Low-Speed Automated Shuttles: State of the Practice

Low-Speed Automated Shuttles: State of the Practice

"To better understand the emerging area of low-speed automated shuttles, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) partnered with the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe) to review the current state of the practice of low-speed automated shuttles. These vehicles share many characteristics with other forms of automated vehicles but include unique considerations in terms of design, operations, and service type, including: fully automated driving (intended for use without a driver); operational design domain (ODD) (restricted to protected and less-complicated environments); low speeds (cruising speeds around 10-15 mph); shared service (typically designed to carry multiple passengers, including unrestrained passengers and standees); and shared right-of-way with other road users, either at designated crossing locations or along the right-of-way itself. This report defines design and service characteristics; discusses the deployers, their motivations, and their partners; and provides information on demonstrations and deployments, both international and domestic. The document also provides context on common challenges and suggested mitigations. Building on all of this information, the document identifies several research questions on topics ranging from safety and accessibility to user acceptance and societal impacts."

Key findings

"There is substantial interest in low-speed automated shuttles—a variety of stakeholders have expressed interest in deploying vehicles, and many are moving forward with pilots. Several pilots are currently operating these vehicles, and, as deployers gain experience with them, they are exploring offering new or expanded services and operating in more complex environments."

"Appropriate use cases for low-speed automated shuttles are still somewhat unclear. Though shuttle providers and other stakeholders have conceived of use cases, current technological constraints limit which use cases can be practically piloted. As a result, existing pilots typically do not fill substantial transportation gaps."

"On-board attendants are currently used on every deployment, and the path to removing attendants is unclear, particularly in more complex operating environments or for services that take on passengers. For some use case concepts, removing the operator is a key element of the business model, as the labor cost of an on-board attendant may make the automated shuttle uncompetitive with other options using manned vehicles."

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