As the FABULOS project has now come to its close, we are pleased to state that FABULOS has been able to successfully capture the main learnings and recommendations for the future deployment of the automated mobility solutions developed within the project.

During  the field test phase of the FABULOS project, a total of 2 807 passengers were taken onboard the shuttles and approximately 14 000 kilometers driven in open road conditions in FinlandEstoniaNorwaythe Netherlands and Greece. The total number of operational hours was as high as 2 756. After each pilot, the functionality, interoperability and security of the autonomous fleets were assessed.

Some of the testing was done in harsh winter conditions with snow, ice, fog and with steep hills on the route. Also, busy traffic on the various routes made the testing sometimes very demanding. Successful implementation of such ambitions pilots in real-life conditions proved that automated mobility is a viable alternative to traditional modes of transport in a variety of roads, weathers and cities.

Challenges still to be overcome

Before the FABULOS solutions can be fully implemented into the public transport systems and commercialised, certain legal, technical, economical and societal obstacles need to be met. Solid political planning and inclusion of all relevant stakeholders from the planning phase was a key political finding in the project. More harmonised and EU-wide legislation is needed to larger implementation of such pilots and the eventual integration automated transportation in cities. For example, in Estonia a legal framework enabling automated transport in already in place, whereas in Portugal the project was a starting point to launch such legislative process.

– FABULOS has shown that huge technological improvements can be achieved in a relatively short time. But in order to reach this, we had to push the national regulatory bodies to enable the testing and deployment of our robot bus solutions. We also learned that aligning technological developments and appropriate regulations can be challenging, but we are clearly getting there – at least in Europe, summarises FABULOS Coordinator Renske Martijnse-Hartikka.

Eventual commercialisation of automated transport is dependent on wider user-acceptance and technological advancement that allows fully automated vehicles in traffic. Overall, the user acceptance for driverless vehicles is high and attitudes positive, but the real need for such last-mile transport solution needs further investigation and testing. Also, from a technological point of view 5G networks and technological advancement of features that allow fast and safe travel without safety driver onboard is needed in the near future.

Collaboration and common vision as success factors

The automated mobility is transforming quickly: in order to provide a revolutionary approach to last-mile transport also from the viewpoint of environmental benefits, a solid vision and collaboration is needed. The automated alternatives to more traditional modes of transport do at present offer a usable and accessible possibility to many road-users. Before automated shuttles become a part of our daily lives and modes of transport, political commitment, technological innovations and further testing, research and development should be encouraged in the near future.

Regarding the procuring cities within the FABULOS project, next steps in the field of autonomous public transportation have already taken place. Concrete plans for follow-up projects have been confirmed in the cities of Helmond, Lamia and Helsinki. Also the commercial consortia have various next steps lined up. For example, the FABULOS pilot of summer 2020 in the Ülemiste business district next to Tallinn airport is set to be continued by AuVe Tech during the summer months of 2021, expanded with on-demand functionalities.

In order to enable smooth integration of the last-mile public transport, the FABULOS project can offer valuable support in form of recommendations and experiences gained during the three-year project. One of the key documents, Deliverable 5.6: Policy paper, summarises the lessons learned from the project and presents policy-related recommendations for the future development of automated mobility. Furthermore, the Tender Document 2 as well as Tender Document 9 (Field Test specifications), including step-by-step field test planning, can be used as a basis for future tender documentation and planning of pilots or deployments.