Keolis launches 5G autonomous vehicle trial in Stockholm

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On 24 September Keolis, in partnership with Urban ICT Arena, Telia, Ericsson, Intel and T-engineering, launched a new autonomous self-driving, electric minibus trial in Stockholm using 5G technology to remotely control and supervise the vehicle.

The trial aims to explore the safe introduction of self-driving autonomous electric vehicles in complex urban areas with a view to optimising route planning and traffic. It will take place in Royal Djurgården, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, from 24 September to 8 October 2020. The autonomous minibus will travel along a 1.6km route and will serve the National Museum of Science and Technology, the Maritime Museum, the Nordic Museum and Vasa Museum.

To mark the launch, an inauguration ceremony took place in Djurgården, attended by Prince Daniel, Duke of Västergötland, Anders Ygeman, the Swedish Minister for Energy and Digital Development, Kristoffer Tamsons, Regional Minister for Transport of the Stockholm Region and Chairman of Stockholm Public Transport, Daniel Helldén, Deputy Mayor of the Traffic Division in Stockholm, and Bernard Tabary, CEO International at Keolis Group.

“Since the launch of the world’s first driverless metro in Lille in 1983, Keolis has been drawing on its expertise as a pioneer in autonomous mobility to make shared mobility smarter, more connected and more sustainable. This ground-breaking trial in collaboration with our key partners constitutes another important step forward,” said Bernard. “We’re pleased to be conducting this trial in Sweden, where we already have a strong presence through our subsidiary Keolis Sverige and carry 730,000 passengers per day.”

In 2016, the Keolis Group launched a trial of the first autonomous vehicles in Lyon, France. Since then, it has operated autonomous vehicles in Australia, Belgium, Canada, the USA and the UK, carrying 200,000 passengers and covering over 100,000 km.

The pilot project at Djurgården aims to explore how a system with 5G-connected vehicles, which are monitored by a control tower remotely, can facilitate the safe introduction of self-driving electric buses in more complex and demanding urban areas. Benefits of such a system include improved route planning and traffic flows, reduced operational costs and pollution and a more reliable, accessible form of public transport for passengers.

The unique technical features of the 5G network, including extremely high data speeds combined with low latency, mean that the connected buses can respond in real time to commands from the centralised control tower. This is a prerequisite for the safe remote control of vehicles and an important step in moving the driver from the bus into the control tower.

Keolis and Ericsson, which provides the technology for the connected control tower, initiated the project following demonstrations of remote control 5G vehicles in 2019 at the UITP exhibition in Stockholm and at the RNTP exhibition in Nantes. Telia is providing 5G connectivity in collaboration with Ericsson. Intel is delivering processing power to both the IT system in the vehicles and the control tower, as well as the mobile network.

The vehicle, which is equipped with self-driving technology, is provided by the Swedish technology firm T-engineering. It features seven seats and will travel at a maximum speed of 18kmh. Commercial services run from Monday to Friday, between 0800 and 1000hrs and 1400 and 1600hrs, and feature a safety driver present in the vehicle at all times.

The trial ends on 8 October and will be continued in Kista Science City. The aim of this trial will be to pilot the vehicle from a control tower without an operator on board. In parallel with the Swedish trial, Keolis is testing fully autonomous vehicles at a site closed to traffic in Châteauroux in France.

In November 2019 Keolis Sverige also partnered with Volvo in developing and demonstrating a full size 12m electric bus which was parked, washed and recharged autonomously at the Keolis depot in Gothenburg.