Brussels Airport agrees introduction of self-driving electric bus


Brussels Airport Company and De Lijn entered into a partnership in 2015 with the intent to deploy self-driving shuttles at the airport.

Brussels Airport Company and De Lijn have given the go-ahead for the introduction a self-driving electric bus on the airport campus. After the summer of 2019, tests without passengers will begin at 2getthere’s test site in Utrecht. The shuttle bus will then arrive at Brussels Airport at the beginning of 2020 for further tests.

In 2015, Brussels Airport Company and bus operator De Lijn entered into a partnership with the intent to deploy self-driving shuttles at the airport. After further study and the choice of the manufacturer, both companies have given their full support to the pilot project for testing an autonomous shuttle on the airport grounds.

“As an intermodal hub where various means of transport connect seamlessly with each other, Brussels Airport is constantly studying new possibilities for expanding this hub in a sustainable way. This technologically innovative project deploying a self-driving electric bus operating a fixed route, also fits in with our environmental commitment to keep the impact on our surroundings as low as possible,” said Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company.

Minister for Mobility Ben Weyts said: “In other countries driverless vehicles are already operational, but that is often in a separate lane with a steward on board. Here, the aim is to have the self-driving shuttle drive autonomously on the public roads. This is cutting-edge technology that really appeals to the imagination. We are making an investment in the future, in greater efficiency and in a more attractive range of public transport.”

2getthere will start the project in the coming weeks. The contract is divided into two phases. The first phase covers the development and thorough testing of the technology until the middle of 2020. In autumn 2019, 2getthere will be conducting the first vehicle tests at its test site in Utrecht. Upon successful completion, the first self-driving bus will arrive at Brussels Airport at the start of 2020 for further test drives at the airport. The test route for this development stage is in the Brucargo business zone.

The first phase with tests and development of the self-driving bus will take two years. In this period, De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company can perform all necessary safety tests in various weather conditions and traffic situations. During this test period, no passengers, visitors or staff will be on board.

Upon a positive evaluation of the first phase of testing, De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company can deploy the self-driving shuttle from 2021 onwards on the airport grounds for the transport of passengers, visitors and staff on the route between the terminal and Brucargo.

Brussels Airport Company and De Lijn are sharing the project costs. De Lijn is responsible for  the costs associated with people who travel by public transport (De Lijn, MIVB, NMBS) to the airport. The airport operator will foot the costs for the transport of persons who come to the airport by other means of transport (staff, visitors or passengers).

As FTE recently reported, airport operators across Europe – including Gatwick, Heathrow and Group ADP – are now tapping into autonomous vehicle technology to automate a range of processes, from baggage handling to passenger transfers.