The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Ohmio, a New Zealand-based autonomous mobility company, hosted a demonstration of three-vehicle autonomous platooning, the first at any U.S. airport.
Held on a closed road at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), the Ohmio demonstration focused on the use of eight-passenger driverless shuttles in a three-vehicle platoon travelling approximately 7 feet apart at 20 mph without any physical connection.
Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, are an emerging technology to allow vehicles to operate safely and efficiently without a driver in the vehicle. Platooning is an important feature for AVs as it allows for multiple autonomous vehicles to travel in unison, significantly increasing the number of passengers who can be transported in a single movement.
The AVs were operated at all times by an on-board safety operator and supervised by Ohmio's control center. Each vehicle has six lidar sensors and the pilot was conducted in an area of a parking lot closed to the general public.
The Port Authority is looking to advance use of autonomous technology in public transit to improve customer service and reliability and to increase capacity, such as piloting autonomous buses in the Lincoln Tunnel’s Exclusive Bus Lane to increase service to the Midtown Bus Terminal during peak travel periods.
Successful demonstrations of AV platooning may prove particularly useful in airport environments to transport passengers in a single movement for short connections such as access to a nearby commuter rail station, an airport rental car facility, or from an AirTrain station to the furthest ends of long-term parking lots.
At today’s event, the Port Authority announced they will also host another pilot in July to demonstrate how an autonomous shuttle van could operate in mixed traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“The Port Authority is constantly exploring ways to prepare our facilities for the tools of the future in order to further enhance the customer experience,” said Port Authority Chairman Kevin O’Toole. “Following the success of last year’s platooning pilot, we are excited for this next phase and the upcoming pilot at Newark Liberty in July. Autonomous vehicles will play a key role in transportation in the coming decades, and the Port Authority will continue to be at the forefront of this emerging technology.”
“We are laser-focused on advancing cutting-edge technology at our facilities, and autonomous vehicle platooning may prove particularly useful in public transit, including at airports,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “This technology could help improve capacity, service and reliability, enabling travelers in the region to get where they need to go faster and more efficiently.”
“We at Ohmio are honored to collaborate with the esteemed Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at JFK. Our demonstration today is the embodiment of our shared commitment to innovation and the pursuit of cutting-edge, passenger-centric solutions. Together, we are shaping the future of autonomous transit, providing a safer, more efficient transportation experience for all,” said Mohammed Hikmet, executive chairman of Ohmio.
This was the second platooning pilot at JFK, with the first held in October by French autonomous vehicle manufacturer Navya, which involved two eight-passenger electric autonomous shuttles at the airport’s Aqueduct Parking Lot. Last year, the Port Authority tested autonomous platooning and lane-keeping technology on retrofitted buses in the Lincoln Tunnel’s Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL).