According to the UN, by 2050 the world urban population was expected to nearly double, making urban mobility a key challenge in the 21st century. Private car use was the main contributor to this problem because cars had the poorest use of road space and caused significant environmental problems. Public transport could be an answer, but compared to the car, it also faced other challenges for the commuter. Whether it was a trip to work, shopping, or returning home, public transport rarely stopped directly in front of the passenger’s destination. This was referred to as the “first and last mile” challenge.
The TUPPAC project addressed this challenge in LOOP CITY- a collaboration between 10 municipalities on the outskirts of Copenhagen. In the years 2018-2024, a new light rail with 29 new light rail stations was built in LOOP CITY to attract passengers to make use of public transport, focusing on the physical environment and station proximity.
The project addressed future challenges of urban transport related to the introduction of driverless technology. This technology developed fast and disrupted urban mobility in the coming decades. But it also raised questions such as: how could autonomous vehicles be an integrated part of public transportation and how would it affect urban planning? The TUPPAC project generated the opportunity for completely new types of innovative mobility services addressing the first-last mile challenge in proximity to the new light rail stations being built.
The TUPPAC project demonstrated the future adaptation of electric, intelligent, and driverless shuttle buses in connection with the new light rail stations in LOOP CITY - a solution to the first and last mile challenge of public transport. The innovativeness of the project was reflected in the novelty of combining the development of driverless technology with sustainable urban development. In doing so, the project systematically addressed the major challenges identified in the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan-framework and developed, tested, and demonstrated practical solutions to the principal problems of integrated, driverless bus transport.
TUPPAC conducted controlled tests with a number of driverless shuttle buses with room for 10-12 passengers at two test beds in LOOP CITY near two future light rail stations:
- Danish Technical University Campus
- Hersted Business Park in the City of Albertslund
The tests involved a high number of passengers in operation and generated knowledge from real-world designed systems to integrate this solution in a range of urban development projects and parts of Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP). Focus was on e.g. safe operation, public trust, cyber security, and possibilities for on-demand dynamic routing.
The tests included both students from the university and employees from the business park as passengers during test periods. Both quantitative data on the performance of the driverless shuttle bus and qualitative data on the experiences of the passengers with this new technology were collected.
The project accelerated the introduction of driverless public transport, aiming to complement and in time probably overtake and displace conventional urban bus systems. The solutions tested were aimed at increasing the reach, convenience, and competitiveness of public transport. The learnings from the two test beds had the potential to be scaled and implemented at the 28 new light rail stations.
The driverless bus solutions developed in TUPPAC locally paved the way for autonomous collective mobility connected to the future light rail station in LOOP CITY as a possible first and last mile” solution. Both flexible and dynamic bus routing services were tested and documented to demonstrate its feasibility in an urban environment.
The expected result was that autonomous buses provided more efficient public transport options and reduced waiting time due to optimized route planning and demand-responsive scheduling. Further, this resulted in a better environment due to low emissions from the buses and the possible increased use of public transportation because of integrated solutions handling the first/last mile challenges. Therefore, it was expected that autonomous collective mobility could transform the bus product by providing safer, cheaper, more accessible, cleaner, and more flexible solutions for tomorrow’s users.
The involvement and interaction of passengers using autonomous collective mobility was, on the basis of observations, surveys, and in-depth interviews, provided the project with valuable feedback on the onboard services and bus operation to meet expectations of everyday life.
Finally, the project delivered value-creation for urban municipality planners on how to implement autonomous collective services in Sustainable Urban Mobility planning in regards to providing a suitable physical and digital infrastructure. Developed guidelines and demonstrated solutions were scalable and transferable to other areas of urban development, especially those ones where a new light rail was being built.