National Academies Press: OpenBook

Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation (2021)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26056.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26056.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26056.
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5 The development of automated vehicles is complex, challenging transportation professionals to keep up with the state of the technology and its uses; federal, state, and local policy; and best practices in planning and deployment. This research builds on the various trials of different levels of automated technology across several categories of vehicles operating at a range of speeds. In particular, the research examined low-speed automated vehicles (LSAVs) already deployed on public roads as shared mobility services. This research provided an opportunity to explore future operation of LSAVs as public transportation. Vehicular automation is a dynamic topic in that technologies and policies may change rapidly. Public transit agencies wishing to explore LSAV services may consult with relevant federal, state, or local authorities on policy. This research was conducted under the direction of a panel with expertise in public transportation, mobility innovation, and research. The technology for automated vehicles moves forward alongside new business and service models in the transportation portion of the sharing economy. This convergence signals the poten- tial for accelerated deployment of shared automated vehicles in more densely populated areas, especially for vehicles operating at speeds less than 35 mph. 1.1 Study Background In August 2018, a report by Volpe National Transportation Systems Center noted that more than 260 LSAV demonstrations and pilots—some planned, some ongoing, and some complete— had occurred in North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Low-Speed Automated Shuttles: State of the Practice identified more than 50 suppliers of LSAVs in different stages of development; manufacturing locations included the European Union, the United Kingdom, Asia, and Australia. This study focuses on U.S.-based LSAV projects that are (1) being piloted or deployed for sus- tained service of more than a few days and (2) designed to explore a transportation use case and experiment with this emerging technology. May Mobility, sponsored by Bedrock, launched the first commercial deployment of LSAVs in the United States in Detroit, Michigan, in July 2018. At about the same time, two LSAV pilots providing shared service to the public ended: one in Arlington, Texas, and the other in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, more projects featuring LSAV service have started operating, and dozens more have been planned. More expansive deployments of LSAVs, sometimes supported by more expansive infrastructure, have been funded through U.S. DOT BUILD grants, including new LSAV services in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jacksonville, Florida, and Youngstown, Ohio. Dozens more entities included LSAVs in proposals submitted under U.S. DOT Automated Driving System demonstration grants. C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

6 Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation LSAVs vary in vehicle speed, level of automation, vehicle size, and whether the vehicle and service comply with the ADA (ADA 42 U.S. Code § 12101 et seq). For purposes of this study, “LSAV” refers to vehicles that reach speeds between 15 and 35 mph, are highly automated (as defined by SAE), and operate as a shared service. LSAV types and sizes, or “form factors,” are expanding with the emergence of smaller scooter-like vehicles and larger buses (along with the attendant federal regulations). LSAVs encompass a variety of vehicle attributes, for example, • Levels of automation. SAE has defined six progressive levels of automation from Level 0 to Level 5. Level 0 has no driving automation. LSAVs operate at Level 4 (High Driving Automa- tion), which means the vehicle is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions. That is, the driver may have the option to control the vehicle. Level 5 (Full Driving Automation) means that human driving is completely eliminated.2 Currently, LSAVs transporting humans are being operated with a safety attendant on board and, in some cases, with a remote operator. In spring 2020, the Jacksonville (Florida) Trans- portation Authority and Florida-based autonomous shuttle service provider Beep deployed a Navya shuttle, an LSAV, to move COVID-19 test samples. No passengers or safety operators are on board, but a follow, or chase, vehicle travels close to the Navya. • Vehicle size and configuration. LSAVs include a variety of vehicle shapes and sizes. For exam- ple, some LSAVs are known as neighborhood electric vehicles (or NEVs), which can carry 4 to 10 seated passengers and some standing passengers. Other LSAVs are purpose-built low-floor shuttle vehicles with high ceilings, which can accommodate 6 to 22 passengers. Still others are purpose-built “pod cars” that carry one to six passengers and can be configured as “trains” or a platoon. LSAVs may also be retrofitted light duty vehicles such as vans or sedans. Though there is no federal definition of an LSAV, NHTSA defines a low-speed vehicle as a vehicle that has four wheels, a top speed of more than 20 mph and less than 25 mph, and a gross vehicle weight rate of fewer than 3,000 pounds.3 All such vehicles must meet the testing requirements set out in the FMVSS.4 • Vehicle speed. Some LSAVs travel at low speeds (below 15 mph). Some vehicles programmed to operate up to 25 mph have been introduced into mixed traffic, and there are projects in the planning stages for speeds up to 35 mph. 1.2 Research Objectives The objectives of this research are to (1) provide public transit agencies and communities with guidance about the deployment of LSAVs as a new public transportation service and a step toward automated mobility on demand, (2) present use cases for LSAVs that may evolve, and (3) provide a checklist for planning and implementing LSAVs. The research examines completed LSAV pilots as well as LSAV projects currently in planning or early-stage implementation. The research illustrates conditions for current and future use cases, along with best practices for planning, implementing, and operating LSAVs. Whereas the use cases are rooted in public transit, other business rationales and service models suggest new mobility applications that blur the lines between public and private transit. The report presents checklists for practitioners, as well as examples of templates, forms, guides, and manuals. This report does not assess the perfor- mance of currently available technology. 2 SAE International, “Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles,” Document J3016, issued January 2014, revised June 2018. 3 49 CFR § 571.3, Definitions. 4 49 CFR § 571.500, Standard No. 500, Low-speed vehicles.

Introduction 7 1.3 Methodology: Lessons-Learned Approach The research approach included • Literature review. The research team reviewed relevant published literature, including the 2018 study Low-Speed Automated Shuttles: State of the Practice, by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The team also conducted interviews with Volpe researchers. (See Appendix A for an annotated list of the relevant published literature.) The team also reviewed unpublished documents that represent each stage of the LSAV planning and implementation process, primarily from projects profiled in the case studies or mini case studies. The Practitioner Guide also provides checklists with examples of useful reference documents for practitioners ideating, planning, and implementing LSAV projects. • Case studies. Three LSAV pilots are presented as case studies to provide lessons from imple- mented LSAV projects in Arlington, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and Las Vegas, Nevada (see Appendix D). The case studies include (1) interviews with key stakeholders (see Appen- dices B and C); (2) a review of working papers, planning documents, and procurement docu- ments related to the pilots; and (3) a review of other existing reports related to LSAVs. • Mini case studies. To supplement the three case studies, the research team reviewed 14 other LSAV projects in the United States, some in regular operation and several being planned. The research team reviewed available working papers and interviewed project stakeholders, where possible. The findings focus on key planning and operational elements summarized in two- to three-page mini case studies in Appendix E. • Other interviews. In addition to interviews conducted for the case studies, the research team interviewed numerous project sponsors, public agency representatives, researchers, and tech- nology vendors. Those interviews informed the case studies as well as the rest of the report.

Next: Chapter 2 - Use Cases and Operational Design Domains for LSAVs »
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Interest in driverless vehicles, including low-speed automated vehicles (LSAVs), continues to expand globally and in the United States.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Research Report 220: Low-Speed Automated Vehicles (LSAVs) in Public Transportation presents current use cases for LSAVs and provides a practitioner guide for planning and implementing LSAV services as a new public transportation service.

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