Autonomous shuttles for the “first” or “last” mile

// 7 December 2022

The CFL will add an innovative element to its multimodal offer with the progressive launch, in 2023, of two autonomous mini-buses. A solution coming from New Zealand that will eventually complete the mobility chain across the customer’s needs.

Often mentioned in the logistics sector, the concept of the “first” or “last” mile also applies to passenger transport. The challenge is to offer customers a continuous public mobility chain from door to door, without having to drive to the nearest train station or stop.

Alongside proven modes of transport, autonomous minibuses are an increasingly attractive option for various public and private players on a international level. For the CFL, the introduction of such vehicles on the road has been under study since 2018, when the first exchanges with, among others, the Ministry of Mobility and Public Works, the Ministry of the Economy and Luxinnovation took place.

“We launched an international call for tenders to find the partner who would be able to offer us the most suitable technology for our needs, starting with the non-negotiable priority of the safety of our customers,” says Carlo Hansen, Head of the CFL Bus Department.

This research was echoed in New Zealand at the headquarters of HMI Technologies, a company specialising in technology solutions for the transport sector. It also manufactures the “Ohmio” autonomous shuttles series from which two “LIFT” models will be delivered to the CFL in March 2023.

“This cooperation promises to be mutually beneficial, allowing the CFL to gain experience in the field of autonomous driving and to contribute to the emergence of this type of vehicle in tomorrow’s mobility,” adds Carlo Hansen.

A European premiere

While its shuttles are already operating on roads in New Zealand, Australia, China and South Korea, HMI Technologies sees the collaboration with the CFL as a first of its kind in Europe. The company recently announced its intention to open its European headquarters in Luxembourg.

With a length of 4.7 metres, the “Ohmio” electric buses will reach a speed of 25 km/h and can carry up to 14 passengers, including people with reduced mobility.

The shuttles are equipped with several radars that provide a permanent 360° view.

“Thanks to HMI Technologies’ software and various sensors placed in the vehicle body, the shuttles communicate constantly with their environment, guaranteeing safety at all moments,” adds Carlo Hansen. In addition, current Luxembourg legislation requires that a supervisor is aboard the shuttles while in operation.

“These vehicles will make scheduled journeys on a virtual track, defining the route to be followed,” explains Carlo Hansen. In a second phase, we plan to add the possibility of booking trips on demand via an app.

Running-in under real conditions

Ideally suited to urban or economic areas, the CFL mini-buses will make their first runs on Luxembourg territory as from mid-March on two closed sites: at IEE in Bissen and at the CFL multimodal terminal in Bettembourg-Dudelange. Before receiving their approval from Luxcontrol.

On the closed site of the Bettembourg-Dudelange intermodal terminal, the first stage of the project will consist of an empty test of the autonomous shuttle.

“The size of the CFL multimodal site lends itself perfectly to a run-in that we will be able to carry out in real conditions, on a 3 kilometre circuit that is completely closed”, explains Carlo Hansen.

“This is a good example of cooperation between different entities of the CFL Group. This first pilot project allows us to prepare for the future integration of new autonomous driving technologies that are set to develop”, says Marc Valette, CFL Multimodal Innovation Director.

Trains, buses, Flex car-sharing and soon… autonomous shuttles. The CFL continue to expand their offer to become the first choice of mobility for their customers.

The shuttles are 4.7 metres long, 2.15 metres wide and 2.74 metres high.