Ricardo has been appointed to provide specialist support for the introduction of a new driverless passenger bus system at Brussels Airport.
De Lijn, the Belgian public transport operator, is working in partnership with Brussels Airport Company to introduce a fleet of automated shuttle buses that can provide safe, reliable round-the-clock transfer services for passengers and airport staff.
The buses, which are expected to enter into service in 2018, will operate between the car parks, terminals, cargo loading areas and office areas within the airport, providing a cost-effective and accessible "last-mile" journey for the airport’s 60,000 daily passengers and 20,000 staff.
The project commences this autumn with a pilot test programme.
As the vehicles will not be using a segregated busway - they will share the same routes used by private vehicles - a key test for the pilot scheme will be their ability to safely navigate high traffic levels.
A joint team from Ricardo’s rail and automotive divisions will provide advice and technical support throughout the procurement process for both the bus fleet and for the central control centre, including assessment of the functional safety of the vehicles and management of the tendering process.
Following the appointment of Ricardo to the project, Ben Weyts, Flemish Minister for Mobility said “"De Lijn has a great deal of experience with bus services, but for driverless vehicles we will need to use external expertise. Only with a specialist partner will we be able to give the pilot project in Zaventem wings".
The award of this contract is significant for Ricardo as it comes within weeks of Ricardo Rail's establishment, following the acquisition of Lloyd’s Register's rail business in July 2015.
It is also an example of the complementary technologies between rail and the automotive sector that Ricardo is now perfectly-positioned to exploit. Whilst its automotive teams possessed the required expertise of passenger vehicle operations, the addition of Ricardo Rail brings a deep knowledge of automated transport technologies to the project team, applying its experience from key technical roles on projects such as the Dubai Metro - which remains the world's longest driverless railway.
The next step is the drafting of the specifications for manufacturers, a process that should be completed in spring 2016, with the contract for the delivery of new bus fleet expected to be awarded in the following autumn.