ANA tests electric apron bus at Haneda

posted on 17th March 2020
ANA tests electric apron bus at Haneda

Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has trialled a new, autonomous electric bus at Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport as part of ongoing efforts to improve sustainability

The trials at the Japanese gateway took place for a little over a week between 22 January and the end of the month in collaboration with SoftBank Corp, a subsidiary of SB Drive Corp, Advanced Smart Mobility and BYD.

ANA and Tokyo-headquartered SB Drive, a specialist in autonomous driving technology for passengers and logistics, first began trials for the driverless bus in 2018. SB Drive’s ‘Dispatcher’ technology checks the vehicle’s surroundings for obstacles and potential hazards.

Advanced Smart Mobility is another Japanese venture that works in collaboration with the University of Tokyo, while BYD is a Shenzhen-based manufacturer of electric-powered buses and other vehicles, amongst other things.

ANA worked out a specific route for the bus to take during the tests; it covered the same 1.9km (1.18 miles) journey within a restricted area at Haneda Airport numerous times.

Says Tadakatsu Yamaguchi, senior director of the ANA Operations Support Centre, Quality Management and Planning team: “When we first started the trial, it was tested at a place near the airport where there is not much traffic. We next moved to the restricted area inside the airport and tried out a very short route. Then, we had the bus run through the actual bus road that we expect the bus to drive in the near future.”

In fact, the vehicle covered a total distance of 237km over the course of the tests, Yamaguchi confirms.

Throughout the process, the bus was “evaluated based on its ability to perform the conditional automation with little human oversight”, says ANA.

The airline adds that it will measure the bus up “to the highest performance standards, and the tests are specifically designed to replicate common real-world scenarios”. If all goes well, it plans to introduce the first autonomous electric bus to Haneda International Airport by the end of this year.

In fact, Yamaguchi reports that “We are highly satisfied with the results [of the trials], for this electronic autonomous bus was very quiet and realised a very smooth driving [performance].

“ANA is committed to actively embracing the most innovative technology to improve all aspects of the passenger travel experience,” comments Shinzo Shimizu, senior executive vice president of ANA.

“Once fully implemented, the autonomous electric bus will allow us to provide a more convenient transit experience for our passengers while also improving efficiency for our airport staff.”

Looking ahead: “As sustainability has always been a priority for ANA, we will continue looking for opportunities to make our products and services more eco-friendly,” he says.

Yamaguchi adds: “We now know what the next challenges are, and we feel that we are moving forward to actually having this bus in operation in the future.

“Our goal is to have the airport working environment simple and smart, and in order to do so, we believe this technology is a very important factor.

ANA intends to start operations with just one electric autonomous bus at Haneda as part of its phased process of going greener.