The innovation project 5G Ride, with the participants Urban ICT Arena, Intel, Keolis, Ericsson, T-Engineering, and Telia explores how 5G and remote monitoring of vehicles via control towers can help facilitate the introduction of self-driving electric buses in urban environments in a safe way.
The ambition is efficient and sustainable public transport, where operators in the control tower can handle fleets of autonomous, electric vehicles to improve traffic planning and route optimization, as well as reduce energy consumption. This leads to a more cost-effective and environmentally smart transport system that is offers more accessibility to residents.
During the year, the project investigated how the control tower (in combination with new digital services on self-driving buses) can create conditions for a safe and secure journey for the passengers. Tests have been carried out with a self-driving, electric minibus in Kista, Stockholm.
– On today’s buses, you can turn to the driver for help. It is a security for the passengers, especially for older person, that you feel welcome and taken care of. With the help of new technology and we can create the same experience on self-driving buses. It can be about quickly getting in touch with the operators in the control tower via simple digital interfaces on the buses, says Jan Jansson, who develops new mobility services at the bus operator Keolis.
Another possibility is to use AI to analyze data from sensors in the buses, in order to proactively draw the attention of the operators in the control tower to emergency situations or to identify forgotten belongings.
The control tower is being developed
In addition to the journey itself, the project has also made progress in developing the integration between the control tower and the bus. The vehicle is connected via a 5G network to the control tower, and it is continuously providing information to the control tower.
For example, the operator in the control tower can give commands to the vehicles, and remotely control them if necessary. Here, the 5G network and its technical features, such as speed and short response times, become vital.
Pilot tests at Djurgården
5G Ride started in 2020. An important milestone in the project was on 24 September the same year, when a new temporary bus route was inaugurated at Djurgården in Stockholm. This consisted of an electric self-driving minibus connected to a control tower via the 5G network. Telia inaugurated Sweden’s first large-scale 5G network in May 2020 in collaboration with Ericsson. The public 5G network is now being rolled out around Sweden and will cover more than 90% of Sweden’s population by 2023.