Synthesis Topics

Autonomous shuttles for passenger and delivery services transport to/from the airport.

The expected benefits of the deployment of autonomous shuttles include a more efficient transportation system and improved safety. However, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed and resolved prior to the full deployment of such technology. These challenges can be summarized into five categories of (1) technology development; (2) user acceptance; (3) safety; (4) social and economic issues; and (5) regulations, policies, and legal issues. The proposed project aims to create a framework wherein the performance of Autonomous shuttles for passenger and delivery services transport to/from the airport can be addressed.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

The literature and previous work on the autonomous shuttles can be categorized into five topics: (1) technology development that includes conceptual designs, and technical demonstrations such collision avoidance technology, autonomous control systems and platooning, (2) user experience that includes passengers' attitude towards autonomous buses and the factors that influence their opinions including demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of riders (e.g., age, gender, nationality, etc.), service and operational characteristics (e.g., speed, having an onboard staff member, etc.), as well as other broader constructs (e.g., user enjoyment, perceived usefulness, comfort, etc.), (3) safety that includes traffic safety, personal security, and emergency management of autonomous buses (4) social and economic issues that consider employment/jobs, costs, accessible services, and environmental considerations and finally (5) regulations, policies, and legal issues that include proposed regulations and policies to address the impacts of autonomous buses.

Given the small number of studies on this theme, additional research in this area is essential. For instance, in regards to technical development, there is room for significantly more research on the combinations of technologies, specifically in higher levels of bus autonomy. In terms of user acceptance, perceptions for both onboard and off-board users should be evaluated over time to understand how human users' concerns may change. In terms of safety, data collection tools and performance measures should be developed to monitor safety in autonomous bus systems continuously. Additionally, network design, re-sizing vehicles, and re-routing conventional fixed-route transit and para-transit services are other important areas for future research. Considering the range of challenges, there is a strong need for developing a framework and methods that enable operators, agencies, and researchers to evaluate and optimize the overall performance of autonomous buses by exploiting the new tools and technologies in the transit system. The proposed project aims to develop such a framework to advance the state of the art, science, and practice of such technology.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The main objective of the research is to (1) identify the challenges of operating an autonomous shuttle reliably in a variety of airport-related settings, (2) identify infrastructure gaps and solutions to operate automated shuttle on the airport transportation system safely, (3) Obtain public feedback related to using autonomous shuttles for passenger or delivery services to/from the airport, (4) identify how autonomous shuttle technology can improve mobility of persons with disabilities, (5) identify the challenges and strategies of having third parties safely operate automated vehicles.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

We propose to conduct Technical-based Analyses wherein we aim to analyze the technical characteristics of the autonomous shuttle in different settings. We pay particular attention to determine how autonomous shuttle may change the characteristics of the traffic network in the airport. Additionally, we explore the required onboard and off-board technologies that ensure the safe, reliable, and economical operation of AVs. We also to perform Social-based Analyses wherein we aim to explore the main concerns of the key stakeholders who interact with the technology. We pay particular attention to both the onboard and off-board users interacting with AVs.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

The developed Measurement of Effectiveness will guide future program evaluations of AVs as well as other innovative technology deployments. The final report will provide guidance on determining success as well as future data collections. For example, we will propose specific long-term outcomes and benefits, the ways to measure them, appropriate time intervals to collect the data, and specific ways to collect and analyze the long-term success of AV employment. We will also provide recommendations for the integration of AVs into the current transit system, such as the integration of AVs into limited mobility solutions.

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Idea No. 616