In order to solve the FABULOS challenge, the Open Market Consultation was launched in the spring of 2018. This was the pre-phase of the FABULOS pre-commercial procurement and it spanned the first half year of the project aiming to get insight into the market; the state of the art and future developments in the field of automated mini-buses in order to refine and reposition the tender specifications.
The summary presented below gives an overview of the goals, the methodology, and the feedback received during the Open Market Consultation. The full summary of the FABULOS Open Market Consultation will be published in August 2018 after the European Commission has approved the documents.
Ambition level high enough
According to the large majority of the audience in all Open Market Consultation events, the FABULOS Challenge was considered innovative and ambitious. In particular, some of the technical requirements presented, were considered quite complex and challenging, such as mixed traffic, safety, timeline versus budget, and challenging. Doubts were also raised concerning vehicle speed: 50 km/h seems too ambitious to achieve in 2020, while maintaining sufficient safety levels. Also, being able to operate in extreme weather conditions was considered as a difficult requirement to meet within the next years. The advice given by the Open Market Consultation participants was that the FABULOS consortium should consider limiting “must-haves” at the start and add in complexity in later phases of the pre-commercial procurement.
Although practically possible, having two field tests in six months in Phase 3 of the pre-commercial procurement was in general considered too ambitious and would decrease the chances of success. Furthermore, according to the feedback received, the focus should be on safety levels and the targets should be as specific as possible. In addition, the suppliers indicated that new regulations and other requirements are likely to appear in the next 2–3 years. The suppliers need to be able to incorporate these developments as they come, and therefore this also needs to be reflected in the Request for Tender documents since legislation is out of the hands of suppliers.
Also, according to the feedback, the user experience should surely be taken into account, as this kind of information is important for suppliers and service developers as well as for municipalities.
Suppliers need support
What can FABULOS Consortium do in order to help the suppliers? Suppliers emphasise that all the feedback from the Open Market Consultation should be carefully considered and integrated for the tender documents. Furthermore, the suppliers were in favour of the Matchmaker Tool which supports networking and the creation of consortia. In addition, maximum support and information, both on the technical and legal side, is needed from Procuring partners to the suppliers throughout the FABULOS project, but particularly in Phase 3 when the field testing takes place. Also Transport Planners of the cities need to be involved from a very early stage.
Regarding funding available, suppliers’ message was that it should be indicated clearly, that FABULOS budgets are not meant to cover all costs. Therefore, suppliers need to have a long-term ambition in order to be successful.
Furthermore, the FABULOS Consortium should emphasise that the full solution that is sought after, and not focus particularly on the autonomous bus itself. It should be clear for all the suppliers what it is that will be tested. Similarly, emphasising that the foundation of the solution must be dynamic and scalable is important.
Viable commercial service in focus
The large majority of suppliers see that the FABULOS solution could be turned into a viable commercial service. Some elements were identified important in this respect:
- Allowing to combine the service with parcel delivery.
- The need to become totally driverless to keep the cost down.
- A hybrid solution offers the best chances. It is flexible, works with vehicles that already have type approval and is affordable and easy to scale up.
- The need to serve new areas where traditional public transport is not economically sustainable.
- Ticketing should be done with existing methods.
- Sufficient ridership and related revenues are essential.
Overall, it seems that potential suppliers are seeing the FABULOS challenge as an interesting R&D opportunity: 81% of the respondents of the online survey stated that they are interested in putting in a bid. The FABULOS Request for Tenders will be published on 1 September 2018 via fabulos.eu and TED.