HOW CONNECTIVITY CAN HELP CREATE BETTER CITIES
As connectivity continues to rapidly increase, huge potential to transform the whole transport industry is being unlocked. Read more about how connected buses can contribute to safer, cleaner and more quiet cities.
WHAT WILL PUBLIC TRANSPORT LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE?
The transport of the future will be smart, flexible and connected.
Hans Lind, Director Business Innovation & Foresight at the Volvo Group Connected Solutions Innovation Lab, looks into the future and describes how new technologies will change the landscape for public transport.
The Volvo Group Connected Solutions Innovation Lab is the Volvo Group’s spearhead when it comes to developing future services and solutions. Here 25 people, in Gothenburg, Sweden and Silicon Valley, USA follow everything that happens within the digital eco-system, while analysing the future. All while working in close collaboration with customers and external partners.
“Digital development is going very fast and it is absolutely vital that we understand the world around us, see the overall context and understand where our customers and the industry are heading. Our focus is on identifying problems and quickly find solutions,” says Hans Lind.
Already today, a number of embryos for technical solutions can be found, which can help public transport meet future needs connected to population growth, urbanization, carbon emissions and increased transportation needs. And they all have one thing in common – the key enablers are connectivity and data.
“In many ways the future is already here. Several of the technical solutions that we will see in the upcoming decade already exists today on a small scale. We just don’t know which ones will have an impact. The only thing we can be sure of is that it will go fast when it happens.”
As a passenger, you travel seamlessly all the way from point A to point B under the concept of mobility as a service. Multimodal and on-demand are key, and a trip can include a bus, tram, ferry, electric scooter, taxi or public bike – all depending on what your needs are.
THIS IS WHAT HANS LIND THINKS PUBLIC TRANSPORT WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE NEXT FIVE–TEN YEARS:
As a passenger, you travel seamlessly all the way from point A to point B under the concept of mobility as a service. Multimodal and on-demand are key, and a trip can include a bus, tram, ferry, electric scooter, taxi or public bike – all depending on what your needs are. You find, book and pay for your entire trip with your mobile phone.
With the help of artificial intelligence and algorithms, the various operators know what inhabitants' travel patterns look like and make sure that vehicles are in the right places at the right times.
If you are employed by a large company, the company car has been replaced by other services, which ensure you are offered seamless transport to and from work, between offices and to remote workplaces.
The demand for skilled bus drivers is still high and there are lot of solutions that make the job safer, more attractive and more fun.
With the help of geofencing technology, speeds are automatically reduced when needed and in the event of traffic jams, you are given priority or get easily redirected to roads with less traffic. The fact that the bus communicates with other vehicles, both passenger cars and commercial traffic, contributes to increased road safety and better traffic flow that reduces the impact on the environment.
As a driver, you get direct feedback on how you are driving and the bus gives you important updates about the vehicle’s status, which means you avoid unplanned stops.
Internet of Things means that more and more physical things in the bus are connected and can provide important information that can affect the bus’s design for example, and in the long term simplify your job as a driver.
In the depot, more and more buses are autonomous and drive themselves between the different stations for cleaning, maintenance and charging. As a driver, you do not have to spend time picking up and leaving the bus inside the depot – the bus will come to you.
The buses of the future are electric, including those that run in urban, regional and long-distance traffic. This increases the demand for a well-developed and flexible energy supply with charging infrastructure or hydrogen.
Regardless of who owns the charging stations and where they are located, long-distance coach drivers can plan, book and pay for charging in one system.
In cities, bus charging is directed and controlled by local traffic management systems that ensure that the right bus is charged in the right place at the right time. Opportunity charging is concentrated at the large traffic hubs and depots. This enables bus operators to easily expand or change their routes as needed.
By using data from traffic lights or other parts of the traffic system, the speed of the bus is adapted to create as even traffic flow as possible. With fewer unnecessary starts and stops at traffic lights, fuel or energy consumption decreases while efficiency improves.
At the same time, the speed of a bus is adapted according to other buses on the same line so as to avoid queues.
What were previously dedicated bus lanes, are now also used by other utility types of transport when there is space available, to help create a smooth and efficient transport flow in and out of the city. The volume of traffic is balanced using connected technology.
The largest articulated buses have been replaced by bus platooning, for example road trains made up of smaller buses. The buses communicate with each other, connecting and disconnecting when needed.
Some fixed main routes and junctions remain but they are complemented by virtual and more dynamic bus stops. Shuttle buses pick up passengers when needed.
With an industry-wide standard, it is sufficient to have one data solution for all the different systems installed in a city bus, such as stop signs, passenger counting, ticket systems, positioning systems, surveillance cameras and billboards. This means lower costs and a reduction in the number of electronics on the bus.
Back office functions have moved to the cloud and with 5G, all data comes in real time. With good digital mirroring of physical reality, sometimes called digital twins, the opportunities for preventive maintenance increase. It is also easy to reconfigure the vehicle’s software when needed.
HOW CONNECTIVITY IS CHANGING BUS OPERATIONS
Volvo Buses is already using data collected from its vehicles to improve fuel efficiency, safety and uptime. As connectivity continues to rapidly increase, huge potential to transform the whole industry is being unlocked.
Today, more than 20,000 Volvo buses are currently connected and sharing data every month, of which 11,000 are actively subscribing to Volvo Buses’ connected services. This includes I-Coaching, Zone Management and Vehicle Monitoring.
“We have come a long way in terms of being able to use data to help our customers save fuel, improve safety, and increase uptime,” explains Henrik Bojö, Global Director Connected Services at Volvo Buses. “For example, we can understand how a vehicle is being driven, how it is being used, what is consuming excessive fuel and then we can advise the driver and operator on how to be more efficient. We are also using connectivity for preventative maintenance, improved safety and increasing customer uptime.”
With access to real-time information, we can create transport systems that better adapt to passenger needs.
As the number of connected vehicles continues to increase, vast amounts of data is being generated, and Volvo Buses is continuously working to use it to its full potential. “Right now, it is like a goldmine, where we have an abundance of great data and we are still finding new ways to use it to maximise customer uptime and productivity,” says Henrik Bojö. “Once you can turn data into valuable information that customers can act upon immediately, that is when we can create real benefits.”
The possibilities are seemingly endless, with huge gains set to be made in terms of safety, productivity, uptime and efficiency. Connectivity will enable buses to not only connect with each other but with other transport modes and infrastructure, and create smoother, seamless public transport systems. Bus operators will be able to better track their fleets and adapt capacity according to demand. As predictive maintenance continues to improve, bus owners can have greater confidence in the reliability of their fleets while minimising replacement costs and workshop visits.
“The more you know the better decisions you can make,” says Jenny Osbeck, Fleet Management Service Owner at Volvo Buses. “With access to real-time information, we can create transport systems that better adapt to passenger needs. Essentially, we want to expand from ‘reporting’ services – where we provide our customers with information – and step up to recommendations for actions or ‘suggesting’ services on-demand, where we can guide the customer on how to improve profitability, uptime and safety.”
As the industry adapts and explores the opportunities made possible by connectivity, Jenny Osbeck believes that sharing data and creating open platforms will be essential. “If we can help create a bigger eco-system and involve third parties in developing new solutions, then the range of solutions available will be far greater. Our team at Volvo Buses has a massive backlog of great ideas that have huge potential for creating customer value. With collaboration and a dynamic eco-system, we will make this possible.”
4 connected services offered by Volvo Buses today
A solution that enables operators to enforce speed zones in certain locations, or in the case of hybrid vehicles, enforce the use of electric drivelines in areas sensitive to noise or carbon emissions.
A system for monitoring driving behaviour and identifying areas for improvement such as excessive idling, curving, and harsh braking, speeding, revving and acceleration. Instant feedback is sent to drivers while operators can access aggregate analyses of their entire fleets.
A service that assists customers to keep their vehicles on the road and support their operations. Information transmitted from the bus is analyzed and provide a decision on the actions to be performed.
A real-time data-based service that provides real time detailed information on entire fleets including fuel consumption, emissions and positioning.
HOW CONNECTED SAFETY TECHNOLOGY HAS CUT ACCIDENT RATES BY 50% IN BRAZIL
The Brazilian city of Curitiba cut accidents by 50 per cent on its busiest bus route after implementing Safety Zones. The connectivity solution uses geofencing technology to actively control bus speeds in high-risk zones.
It’s 5 pm and rush hour in Curitiba. The Volvo bus travelling south on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) North Corridor is full of people on their way home from work and schools. As the bus approaches the entrance to Praça do Japão, the driver prepares to reduce its speed to 30 km/h. This idyllic public space is in one of the city’s safety zones and even if the driver forgets to reduce the speed, the bus will slow down automatically.
The bus is one of 80 new buses in the city that is using Safety Zones, a system that uses remote monitoring and GPS technology to control the vehicle in specific areas. The system is one of many innovations that the city has adopted to develop its public transport system. Curitiba was the first city in the world to adopt special express bus lanes, known as BRT. Today the network includes six express corridors.
In the BRT North Corridor alone, Urbanization of Curitiba (URBS) a local government-owned company that manages public transport in the city, has mapped out eight safety zones, where the maximum speeds range from between 20 km/h and 60 km/h, depending on the risk of accidents.
“With Safety Zones we can limit vehicle speed in crowded areas, such as schools, malls, city squares, as well as terminal entrances and exits. Since the speed is controlled automatically, both passenger comfort and safety increases”, says Ogeny Pedro Maia Neto, President of URBS.
Since it was first introduced in March 2018, the system has resulted in 50 per cent fewer accidents, mainly collisions with cars, on BRT´s busy North Corridor. “Volvo Automatic Speed Control has become a key safety feature. It reduces the risk of accidents in places where the traffic dynamic requires extra attention. This is especially important in areas with a lot of cars and pedestrians, who are often unfamiliar with how bus expressways work,” says Ogeny Pedro Maia Neto.
Safety Zones has become a key safety feature. It reduces the risk of accidents in places where the traffic dynamic requires extra attention.
Auto Viação Redentor is one of ten companies that operate public transport service in Curitiba. Redentor mainly serves the southern region of the city, which is connected to the North by the BRT lanes. The company has 300 buses, 108 of which are Volvo articulated and bi-articulated. A total of 30 buses are equipped with Safety Zones.
“Even before implementing the new technology, we had mapped out the most high-risk areas and informed our drivers, but we had no way to interact with the vehicles. Volvo’s technology allows us to do that,” says Angelo Gulin Neto, Director at Auto Viação Redentor. “The risk of accidents has been reduced, it's preventive work.”
With a bus network that carries 15 million passengers per month, there are many and varied challenges to maintaining road safety in Curitiba. These risks include inattentive pedestrians with their eyes glued to their cell phones and cyclists crossing BRT´s bus lanes. Even authorised vehicles, such as ambulances and police cars, demand extra caution. In recent years, new intersections for cars have been added to BRT bus lanes. Traffic in Brazilian cities can be somewhat chaotic, for example many drivers don’t use headlights.
“Driving on the BRT expressways requires constant attention. Having an automatic speed control system really helps a lot. As a driver, it allows me to concentrate on other things,” says Valdionei Cenci Bacelar, a Redentor´s bi-articulate driver for over 18 years.
For drivers like Valdionei Cenci Bacelar, any accident, especially when involving fatalities, is a traumatic event that should be avoided at all costs. “In traffic we need to take care of each other,” he says.
Another bus company that uses vehicles with Safety Zones is Transporte Coletivo Glória. The company has 393 buses, 40 of which are bi-articulated Volvo buses. 18 of these use the new technology. “We’ve already ordered five more buses,” says Alexander Marques, Operational Manager.
According to Alexander Marques, the new buses are not only safe, they also bring down costs. “Once drivers get used to vehicles slowing down in safety zones, they learn to control the speed even in other areas with no such limits. The engine is spared, and we save fuel,” he says.
Driving on the BRT expressways requires constant attention. Having an automatic speed control system really helps a lot.
When Transporte Coletivo Glória first implemented Safety Zones, the main challenge was to define the size of the safety zone and find a good balance between speed and travel time. “We tested and adapted where and for how long the bus would slow down. In some places, we started with speed reduction zones of 350 meters. Today, that same zone may have been shortened to 200 meters. But preventing accidents is our always our main priority,” he says.
According to Ogeny Pedro Maia Neto, the implementation of Safety Zones on buses in Curitiba has not only reduced the number of accidents, it has also led to other management improvements for URBS. “For example, there is no longer a need to monitor the high-risk areas with radar to prevent speeding. This frees up our workforce to focus on other activities such as managing new passenger facilities. The new technology helps us reach our goal – efficient and accident-free public transport,” he says.
Safety zones in short
- Through remote monitoring and geolocation, the buses are programmed to keep within the set speed limits in special high-risk areas.
- Every time a bus enters one of the safety zones, the connectivity system automatically detects its exact location and adjusts the vehicle’s speed. The driver also receives a warning on the dashboard.
- In Brazil, the technology was first introduced in March 2018, when Curitiba began a process of renewing its bus fleet.
- Currently 80 Volvo buses (51 bi-articulated and 29 articulated) with Safety Zones are operating in Curitiba.
- The technology is implemented on Volvo buses in approximately 20 other countries all over the world.
- In some markets the solution is called Volvo Automatic Speed Control.
CURITIBA IS SYNONYMOUS OF BRT
- Curitiba's bus system is a global benchmark. Internationally named BRT – Bus Rapid Transit – the model has inspired many cities as an alternative to urban mobility.
- Buses run on exclusive bus lanes and passengers board at stations, paying the same standard fare.
- Curitiba has six express bus corridors that connect the city. The busiest is the 35-kilometre long North Corridor which transports 350,000 passengers per day.
With its investment in geofencing, Sweden is leading the way towards smarter, more attractive towns and cities. Controlling vehicles digitally in certain zones can contribute to cleaner air, lower noise levels, improved accessibility and greater safety.
“The technology already exists, and developments are taking place rapidly. Within the next five years, I believe that we are going to see geofencing in many places in Sweden,” says Maria Krafft, Traffic Safety Director at the Swedish Transport Administration.
She is responsible for a four-year research project which began at the start of 2019. Together with the automotive industry and the two largest cities in Sweden, the Swedish Transport Administration is driving a number of initiatives designed to speed up the introduction of geofencing.
In addition to contributing to improving the environment, safety and health, there are economic benefits to be attained.
Geofencing means creating a digital geographic zone in which connected vehicles can be controlled. It can be used, for example, to limit speeds near schools or control a vehicle so that it is driven on biodiesel or electricity. The technology can also determine which vehicles can be driven in a specific area.
According to Maria Krafft, geofencing can help create attractive, sustainable and safe towns and cities in which vehicles move in accordance with the population’s wishes.
“To achieve this, however, all the different parties – those that operate the transport, those that order it and those responsible for the roads – have to agree. In addition to contributing to improving the environment, safety and health, there are economic benefits to be attained,” she says.
Sweden is already at the forefront of geofencing and a number of pilot projects are in progress in different parts of the country. In Stockholm, tests are being conducted on goods transport to fast-food restaurants during the night, where the trucks run on electricity at a maximum speed of 45 kilometres an hour. In Gothenburg, the technology is being used on the Volvo buses operated by Keolis on routes 55 and 16 within the framework of the ElectriCity project. On some routes, the buses switch to electric operation and speeds are reduced.
The City of Gothenburg has been closely following these tests. “The results are excellent. We can see positive effects in the form of enhanced safety and the driver support is also impressive,” says Malin Andersson, Head of Department Urban Transport Administration, Gothenburg.
The results are excellent. We can see positive effects in the form of enhanced safety and the driver support is also impressive.
The City of Gothenburg’s vision is to be a role model when it comes to creating an attractive, sustainable city. Geofencing could play an important role in realising this objective.
“We are involved in this project to learn and see how a digitalised future can benefit us. One of the things we are examining is whether traffic regulations can be supplied digitally via the cloud and the advantages this might generate. We are also studying the potential to improve driver support on all the transport and vehicle fleets the city supplies,” adds Malin Andersson.
At present, geofencing is based on vehicles being controlled by software and different players collaborating. The project also examines the city’s digital processes to see how they can control or limit vehicles in different zones in the future.
Another important aspect involves studying the current legislation and identifying the legislative changes that are needed to enable geofencing to be introduced on a large scale and even to function globally.
“Our objective is to think big, in a scalable way. To help us act quickly, we have chosen to work on a small scale and make adjustments as the process continues. Right now, the most important thing is to learn from the pilots we are running and help more people understand the benefits. In Sweden, we are good at collaborating with different partners and I believe we have every chance of leading the way in this area,” says Maria Krafft.
A RESEARCH PARTNERSHIP
- In 2017, the Swedish Transport Administration was tasked by the government with examining the potential for using geofencing in urban environments.
- This resulted in a demonstration showing what was feasible, together with a plan of action developed jointly by the Swedish Transport Administration, the City of Stockholm, the City of Gothenburg, Volvo Group, Scania, Volvo Cars and Veoneer.
- This four-year research partnership was one of the proposals in the plan of action and it will continue until 2022.