by Jorrit Kuipers

COnnected Level5 UnManned BUSeS

COLUMBUSS is an international consortium consisting of universities/knowledge institutes, policymakers, local and regional municipalities, transport operators, interest groups and technology suppliers. COLUMBUSS proposes demonstrating that autonomous public transport can reduce transportation costs of people and goods, increase mobility within cities and the countryside, improve the quality of life, and be acceptable to all stakeholders. In pilot routes within and outside Europe, we will demonstrate that public transport capacity and use will increase by implementing automated mobility.

Although in Europe, over 100 pilots on autonomous transports were effectuated, the impact of autonomous mobility is insufficiently validated. The main reason is the lack of demonstrators at SAE Level 5 (only passengers in the vehicle) under natural traffic conditions. ‘Natural’ means an everyday 24/7all-weather exposure to other traffic at the maximum road speeds for an extended period. Until now, impact studies have had low predictive value. Autonomous vehicles (AVs)are operated at low speed (average far below 20 km/h) and mostly on short tracks (50% of the pilot tracks were shorter than 1.500 m). The safe driving skills at higher speeds are limited, and human operators must constantly observe the ODD1and frequently interfere to avoid collisions. Tracks are isolated from the rest of the traffic, especially vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians.

AV demonstration and commercial deployment are hindered by missing safety assessment standards. Safety assessment metrics are not formulated, tested and accepted yet. Safety assessment metrics are still under construction by organisations like the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium AVSC and the UN ITU-TFocus Group AI4AD(associated partner of COLUMBUSS). The focus of the AV industry is on absolute safety around the AV, the safety envelope concept. These are absolute metrics that lack predictive strength to determine risk mitigation behaviour.

COLUMBUSS uses the competent human driver as the reference model for safe driving, a paradigm shift in assessing and licensing AVs. AVs have to perform at least equal to their human peers and not twice as safe as AV Industry claims. This approach to driving safety is much easier to implement and execute. It is also easier to accept for society since its base is the existing legal metrics of the competence testing of human drivers. We implement this human-centred metrics in our AV systems and demonstrate and evaluate the improved safe driving skills under natural traffic conditions. Extensive exposure under natural traffic conditions will reveal reliable and realistic opportunities and threads for CCAM solutions, strengthening the value of the impact studies we will carry out.

The official launch of COLUMBUSS is on the 13th of October 2022. Are you interested in joining COLUMBUSS? Send an email:

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