Thursday 23 February 2017

Navette Autonome (2)

Compass Centre Demo
It is a huge office block off the A4 but accessed by Heathrow's private roads network, thus ignored by Google Streetview.
The building sits in a sea of car park on the northern perimeter of the Airport. When Heathrow first opened in 1946 there was nothing but fields and a few ex-Military sheds along the A4 ...
... with a collection of huts and marquees as the terminal buildings.
Even after the new central area buildings were opening in the mid 1950s, some intercontinental flights still left from this "North" terminal. everything is just a bit bigger now!

The Compass Centre was originally conceived as speculative offices for Lynton plc, which was the property development division of Heathrow Airport Ltd. British Airways was a prospective but not necessarily a sole tenant. The airline decided to consolidate its scattered operations into the Compass Centre. In August 1992 on-site construction began. The building was completed 15 months later. 
When London Heathrow Terminal 5 opened on 27 March 2008, British Airways staff, including crew check-in staff, relocated from the Compass Centre to Terminal 5. A refurbishment of the head office was completed in September 2009, after Heathrow Airport Limited (then BAA) moved into the building.

Now that the Compass Centre is the HQ of the airport administration, it was a logical place to witness a demonstration of a new and exciting form of public transport; namely a driverless bus. Although the airport has yet to make a commitment to the new technology, there might be opportunities to transport passengers and staff in autonomous vehicles.

Enter the Navya Arma!
The demonstration between 24th and 26th January was covered by an excellent article in the current "Buses" magazine.
As well as the usual PR "hype", author Alan Millar gives some financial facts which may be "food for thought".
It is in the last sentence above that the crunch lies. It is likely that, initially at least, vehicles like this will be used on services which currently do not exist, simply because they would be too costly to provide using conventional vehicles.It makes direct comparison very difficult, but it ios hard o see how a service as proposed could ever be commercially justified.

It is also clear that there is a world of difference trundling round a closed and very quite car park in demo mode compared with real street running with all its complications.

Las Vegas Demo
The Buses article continues ...

A more ambitious demonstration, from 11th to 20th January, saw an Arma operate on a public highway in the Unites States, on a 400 yard stretch of Freemont Street ...
... in downtown Las Vegas, where it offered free rides from 1100 to 1500.
But was it?
Notice the heavily coned piece of road ...
... with the Las Vegas van and police "black-and-white" blocking off the 7th Street intersection.
Compare this with the Streetview street view of the same locations above.

In a real sense this was no more a public road than the Compass Centre car park; everything was very tightly controlled to keep the worst bit of the public, namely their unpredictable vehicles, well away from the shiny little Navya Arma. 

Tomorrow we go to Lyon and Paris where these pods have been in operation, In Lyon the demo took place last September: in Paris the demo is running today!

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Friday 24th Februray  

No comments:

Post a Comment