people mover, shuttle, autonomous, electric, airport, passengers
Photo: Brussels Airport

Self-driving vehicle makes maiden trip at Brussels Airport

A Flanders public transit company, De Lijn, and the manufacturer 2getthere are behind a pilot project operating a self-driving people mover in Brussels.

In the coming days, an autonomous shuttle bus from manufacturer 2getthere will make its first demo trips past the terminal at Brussels Airport.

Passengers who stop at the “spring terrace” will be able to see it drive by, but for the time being the bus will run without people on board.

“‘Intelligent mobility’ is one of our strategic priorities for sustainable development over the coming years,” says airport CEO Arnaud Feist.

“We want to encourage passengers and employees to increasingly travel to the airport by public transport. This joint project with De Lijn, which commenced in 2015, is one of the initiatives specifically aimed at achieving this objective.”

The self-driving electric bus follows virtual routes which it uses to continuously calculate its position. Deviations from the planned route are corrected on the basis of artificial reference points. The vehicles are also equipped with sensors for detecting other objects in the vicinity.

Carel C van Helsdingen, CEO of manufacturer 2getthere, said: “De Lijn and Brussels Airport are setting a new global standard with this project.”

“We’re on the verge of a breakthrough in autonomous transport,” confirmed De Lijn’s director general, Roger Kesteloot.

Next steps
De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company intend to launch the autonomous shuttle service between the airport terminal and the cargo business zone and parking areas in 2021.

The shuttle will run independently at an average speed of 20 km/hour over a short, fixed route. Because the people mover is designed to share the road with other traffic, no separate lanes will be required.

The pilot project is currently in the development phase. Test rides will be conducted on-site at the manufacturer, 2getthere, in Utrecht.

The test rides will be done without passengers, but there will be a steward on board even though one will not accompany passengers when the service is fully operational.

Related stories

Belgium closes airspace for 24 hours

Airlines and airports experiment with blockchain

How Finnish airports are experimenting with AI