Mobilidata, a program of the Flemish government and imec that deploys smart mobility solutions in Flanders, begins the first tests with self-driving or teleoperated cars. Teleoperated vehicles will first be tested on a closed circuit. This will be followed by tests on public roads. The tests are taking place within the framework of the Taskforce on Autonomous Driving, established by the Flemish Minister of Mobility and Public Works. With this initiative, the Flemish government wants to gather insights that can contribute to a legal framework for teleoperated and autonomous vehicles. In this way, Flanders wants to stimulate the arrival of these vehicles in a well-founded, safe and future-oriented way.

The introduction of autonomous driving in Flanders will happen gradually and in different ways. Teleoperated driving can be a stepping stone to fully autonomous driving, or could even become a separate permanent feature. The interplay of teleoperated and autonomous driving combines the advantages of human control with those of artificial intelligence within pre-defined areas and well-known conditions. A good example would be trucks driving autonomously on specific routes (corridors) during off-peak hours, with a remote operator taking over the wheel before and after specific routes or in unforeseen traffic conditions. This may provide a solution to the growth of the transportation sector, the severe shortage of drivers and the ongoing congestion problems. Companies offering shared cars in Flanders are also looking for technological solutions to practical problems. Efficiently moving shared cars to locations where they are needed the next day could be done remotely, provided that an appropriate legal framework is developed for this.

The Flemish government aims to carry out sufficient tests with teleoperated or autonomous vehicles before they are allowed to drive on public roads among other road users. Therefore, the Agency for Roads and Traffic and the Department of Mobility and Public Works are starting a test period on a closed track in collaboration with research centre imec. This should shed light on both the possibilities and limitations of teleoperated and self-driving vehicles. During the test period, the primary focus will be on evaluating the latest camera, radar and lidar technologies. Reaction times to dangerous situations will be tested at different speeds and conditions. With positive results on the closed circuit, participants will be allowed test drives on public roads. Those tests will be scheduled in the fall. Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) is providing financial support.

Integration of multiple technologies

For Mobilidata, this is a new step. In recent years, the Mobilidata program has already introduced connected traffic and digital traffic management in Flanders. This has resulted in personalized traffic alerts and the rollout of approximately 250 intelligent traffic lights across Flanders that respond flexibly to current traffic conditions. Mobilidata data sources are now being systematically integrated into the teleoperated or autonomous driving process. Whether the vehicles respond adequately to reports of sudden dangerous situations, such as an accident or cargo loss on the road, will be tested.

“With imec, we want to contribute to the future of mobility by helping pave the way for a safe introduction of autonomous and teleoperated driving in Flanders. One of the first promising business cases can be found in logistics, in teleoperated trucks and shared cars. For this, various communication, data and sensor technologies need to be brought together, tested and validated. Fully autonomous vehicles still have quite a few obstacles to overcome, but this test is an important first step. For this purpose, imec is developing sensor technology, but it is also committed to testing this technology in realistic conditions,” comments Steven Latré, head of AI at imec.

Source: Vlaanderen Mobilitdata