The two autonomous Postbuses “Valère” and “Tourbillon” were the first self-driving buses in the world to be used for public transport services and have transported almost 54,000 passengers on the public transport network in Sion city center since June 2016. The success of the SmartShuttles encouraged the city of Sion and PostBus to apply for the EU Avenue project with support from the canton of Valais, the Mobility Lab Sion, the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and HES-SO.
Avenue – Autonomous Vehicles to Evolve to a New Urban Experience – is a project funded by Horizon 2020 which aims to pave the way for the use of self-driving vehicles in public transport. A multinational group made up of partners from industry, cities and research are working on a European solution to the challenge of producing viable concepts for highly automated mini-buses in suburban environments.
The SmartShuttles are now running in the Uvrier district of Sion. Since early April, residents and tourists have been able to book both shuttles for their journeys via an app, over the phone or using a touch display system at Uvrier railway station as part of a six-month trial. The self-driving vehicles will not run on a pre-determined route in Uvrier but instead chauffeur the customers from one of the 17 virtual stops to another On-Demand. This extensive coverage means all residents of the district have a stop in the direct vicinity of their home and simplified access to the regional rail network.