7 months ago

Going Green – Experiencing the Ecomobile Lifestyle

ISBN 978-3-86859-512-3

Ecomobility Services

Ecomobility Services Community Ecologistics Services How would residents and businesses in Kaohsiung’s ecomobility demonstration area, Hamasen, receive or dispatch merchandise, parcels and other goods without using their cars or motorcycles? Kaohsiung came up with an exemplary solution. To allow people to switch to ecomobile means of transport, the City offered free neighborhood freight services during the month-long EcoMobility World Festival. Two temporary neighborhood freight service centers were established, which were equipped with an electric van and a fleet of electric motor scooters. Conventional vans and trucks would bring freight to the centers, from where they would be transported by ecologistics staff with ecomobile vehicles within the demonstration neighborhood and delivered to the doors of the recipients. More than forty businesses used the freight service, and the centers provided over thirty freight services per day. • 58

Ecomobility Services Driverless Minibus Going Green: Professor Chen, during the EcoMobility World Festival in Kaohsiung, thousands of citizens and visitors enjoyed the opportunity to test-ride the driverless minibus, and this free of charge. Who operated the service and who bore the cost? Chen: It was operated by 7Starlake, a Taiwanese startup company, and sponsored by the ASE Group, a Taiwanese electronics company and festival sponsor, to support test-run costs. Going Green: What did the operator expect in return? Was it just brand promotion, was it a technical test-run, or was it an exploration of acceptance by future customers? Chen: It is a technical test-run and also an exploration of acceptance by future customers. Through the test-run, we can gain insights into how we can design infrastructure, organize services, and formulate regulations to better facilitate the safe use of driverless minibuses in Kaohsiung. Of course, the operator also had brand promotion benefits. Going Green: Have you heard any feedback by people about their experience? And if so, what were people most excited about, and what did they find questionable or even scary? Chen: Eighty percent of the respondents replied that they enjoyed the experience of personally riding this latest technology product rather than just learning the related information from the media. Overall, their responses are positive including that they perceive the ride as quiet, stable, and user-friendly. However, they are also concerned about the issues of capacity (too small), driving speed (too slow), and safety (how to coexist with other transport modes—motorcycles in particular). Going Green: Have you heard similar opinions from transport experts, or do technical experts have a different view of the driverless minibus? A test-ride of the autonomous minibus fascinated celebrities, citizens, and foreign visitors Professor Ching-Fu Jeff Chen Internationally renowned expert in urban transportation and Director General of the Kaohsiung Transportation Bureau Chen: Most transport experts agree that autonomous vehicles can serve as a safer, lower cost, and more flexible transport mode in certain circumstances. But some experts think that autonomous vehicles can’t provide passenger care or emergency treatment for customers as bus drivers do. And they are also concerned about the safety issues, such as how the autonomous vehicle can drive safely on the road with other modes of transportation. Going Green: Let me ask you as a university professor with international expertise: Do you believe that autonomous minibuses will find a niche in the future public transport systems in urban areas? And what about larger-size driverless buses? Chen: Positively, there are at least three models of how autonomous minibuses can fit into the future public transport systems in urban areas. First, offering the first-mile and last-mile shuttle between transport stations and final destinations. Second, they can provide an alternative for BRT or LRT if using largersize driverless buses and dealing well with the communication between driverless buses and traffic signals. The third one is a transit (or so-called metro) model that gives driverless buses exclusive right-of-way and gets rid of any interaction with other surface traffic. Larger-size driverless buses can bring more benefits in terms of public transport systems. It is great to learn that there have been several bus manufacturers working on producing larger-size driverless buses. Going Green: Why should buses run autonomously? What's wrong about having a driver, maintaining drivers' jobs, and having a human person in the bus who people can turn to in case of a query or emergency? Chen: Introducing driverless buses into public transport systems does not mean replacing all bus drivers’ jobs. Where, when, and how to appropriately introduce driverless buses into public transport systems must be carefully evaluated before any implementation. We hope the driverless bus will supplement and enhance the overall performance of the bus system instead of getting rid of traditional bus operation. Just like the impact of other automa- 59