Around the world, smart mobility solutions are increasingly being utilised to deliver effective, safe and sustainable public transportation to ease congestions, meet first/last mile demands and improve air quality, among other urban challenges.
In Israel, heavy traffic congestions, traffic-related accidents, air pollution, and associated economic and health impact are major transportation challenges for the country. This has led to increasing interest in autonomous shuttles to establish use cases to benefit its community.
Israel launched its first autonomous shuttle service at the Sheba Medical Centre, a leading medical centre in the Middle East that started service in January 2021. This is part of the Smart Mobility Initiative under the Prime Minister’s Office and led by the Israel Innovation Authority and the Israel Ministry of Transport.
The pilot was deployed in cooperation with Singapore’s leading autonomous transport solutions provider ST Engineering and French autonomous driving systems provider Navya. It is operated by autonomous solutions startup Blue White Robotics.
ST Engineering contributed two autonomous shuttles which have undergone testing and trials across a variety of scenarios with the Technion vehicle lab since early 2020. In addition, a homologation process is being conducted with the Ministry of Transport.
The autonomous shuttle is an innovative mobility solution that combines robotic technologies, high performance sensors architecture and a constantly improving autonomous driving software which allows the vehicle to locate, analyse and interact with the environment in real time.
The environmentally-friendly and cost-effective electric shuttle can transport up to 15 passengers, and offers a host of benefits including safety, flexibility, accessibility and efficiency. Besides travelling in closed private sites such as campuses, parks, medical centres, seaports and airports, the shuttle can also serve as a first/last mile public transportation solution.
The Sheba Medical Centre is located in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. The centre integrated the autonomous shuttle into its shuttle service to transport passengers on the campus. The shuttle operates in a very complex environment that includes buses, taxis, cars, bicycles, motorbikes and other small motorised and slow vehicles of all kinds.
The shuttle route comprises a loop of about 2.1 km long and serves the main hospital buildings, sharing the road with existing bus lines. There are seven shuttle stops, and any person on the hospital site can use the service. On top of this, the route runs close to large car parks, making it difficult to map. The bus also passes under several bridges and in the middle of tall buildings, which limit GNSS coverage. It also has to navigate 4 roundabouts and more than 20 pedestrian crossings.
“This deployment is an important milestone for ST Engineering in the provision of autonomous mobility solutions,” said Oded Efrati, General Manager of ST Engineering (Israel). “We are proud to partner Israel with whom we share a common vision for the future of urban mobility.”
“I am very pleased with this first public deployment in Israel, especially since our systems are implemented within a complex path,” said Etienne Hermite, Chief Executive Officer of Navya. “I am also delighted that our partnership with ST Engineering is being extended to Israel, which is a “start-up nation” always at the forefront of the latest technological innovations, with a strong potential.
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