Ferrovial, through its Airports Division and Innovation Department, and Southampton Airport have successfully completed deployment of a self-driving bus service for the shuttle service between the main terminal and airport parking lot. The project was supported by the European Commission through the European Institute of Technology & Innovation’s EIT Digital initiative.
In order to shorten start-up times and reduce project implementation costs, an existing vehicle was fitted with the latest technology available in the market to grant it Level 4 autonomy in accordance with the classification of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Level 4 autonomous vehicles can operate in self-driving mode in limited areas where the vehicle has sufficient information so as not to require a driver.
The shuttle service between the main terminal and the parking lot is provided by an Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 bus fitted with an advanced drive-by-wire system similar to that used in commercial aircraft. The system controls the steering, accelerator and brake as well as other elements (lights, door opening, etc.) and has a number of sensors (cameras, GPS-RTK, LIDAR, ultrasound and radar) that provide information enabling it to follow the programmed route. The vehicle conversion was performed by UK company Conigital.
This innovative project enhances the passenger experience in transit and improves customer service by enabling more time and resources to be devoted to meeting users’ needs. This benefits information services and other areas by enabling a more efficient and personalized service. The use of buses of this type is estimated to reduce operating costs by 50%.
Since the project involves adapting an existing vehicle, it offers a broad range of opportunities for improvement in other areas and services within the airport, such as baggage management, aircraft movements on the ground and other transportation needs that arise in day-to-day operations at an airport.
Southampton Airport is part of AGS Airports, which also manages Aberdeen and Glasgow airports. In October 2019, Glasgow became the first airport in the United Kingdom to introduce a fleet of electric buses, which reduced the carbon emissions associated with the parking lot shuttle service from 143 tons per year to zero.