Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Navette Autonome (5)

A Note From Storm Doris ...
... and a smile from London Underground!
Thanks to IoW correspondent Alan for spotting this.
Different Driverless Demonstration
It's on real roads!
This is a boring picture is of "Midi", one of the main town centre bus stops in Sion, Switzerland.
How overwhelmingly exciting, NOT.

But here is a picture of the Navya Navette Autonome serving the same stop.
Proper big buses are run by the local authority (Bus Sédunois), Car Postal (Postbus) and a couple of independents. None of these services penetrates the old town area as this map shows.
Stops at Poste du Nord, Planta and Place du Midi are all on the edge of the quaint and narrow street bit.

In a wise and wonderful evaluation scheme, Car Postal are operating the Navya on a circular route mainly through pedestrianised and limited access areas in that unserved centre block. Here is the map. (click on the map to enlarge it)
This scheme shows the two main stops but there are others dotted round the circuit. Midi offers direct connection with ton buses as shown above. Planta is on the opposite side of the square, on a pedestrian road, from the main us stop.
Big buses stop on Avenue de la Gare (left), Navya pods on Place de la Planta (centre right). It is this scheme that is featured in an article in the current Buses magazine ...
... written by a genuine observer and a genuine passenger!
The article confirms much of what Car Postal say on their dedicated web site 

The trial runs on six days a week; the later start of Thursdays is to avoid a street market!
To vehicles operate the service and the FREE experiment will run until October 2017. 

A cet effet, les deux navettes ont été perfectionnées et adaptées aux exigences des autorités. Elles ont subi plusieurs modifications: notamment l’installation d’une climatisation, d’une ventilation performante et d’un essuie-glace pour garantir une vue optimale à travers la vitre frontale, d’une deuxième batterie de 16.5 kWh pour une plus grande autonomie ou encore d’une rampe pour faciliter l’accès aux personnes à mobilité réduite. Ces deux véhicules intelligents peuvent accueillir jusqu’à onze voyageurs et circulent avec une vitesse maximale de 20 km/h. 

fbb would have liked to include a video of at least part of the route but for some unfathomable reason the video processor on the Blogger system has stopped working. Our considerate readers will have to put up with selected screenshots.

Motorbike overtakes, Place du Midi
Same road, cars coming in opposite direction
Traffic bollards, lowered for the bus
Narrow bridge followed by tight left turn ...
... and a very narrow alley!
Pull in to the roadside at stops
Real passengers
It looks very impressive indeed.


There is, sadly, a "BUT". Take a look at the two pictures above; indeed tke a look at ay picture of the bus in operation and you will see a passenger (sometimes two) in a yellow T shirt.

One of them is the driver! The other is a "customer assistant". Most trips carry both.

To be fair, the driver is only there to take control if anything goes wrong. In the Buses article, the electronics could not cope with a steady stream of on-coming cars and an illegally parked vehicle. The stringent safety measures simply wouldn't allow the bus to "nip past" the obstruction.

Similarly, at a tight turn, another parked vehicle confused the little buskin and it stopped completely and whispered an anguished "help" to its carer. Intervention followed.

In both cases the driver "drove" the vehicle manually with his X-box keypad (yes that's right) ...
... until the next scheduled stop when he handed control back to the electronics.
A highly over-charged article in an American "popular science" reported that one of the pods had collided with an open tailgate of a parked delivery vehicle. It looks as if the end on tailgste was too "thin" to register on Navya's sophisticated radar. No one was hurt.

The Navya people are keen to stress that every demonstration is an opportunity to test and refine the software.

One thing is certain. If Car Postal and Navya can get it to wok in Sion, it will work anywhere.

Time will tell whether the "blue sky" vision s actually deliverable and at a price that doesn't excavate the coffers of those providing the service.

As this blog says many times, "Don't hold your breath!"

Tomorrow we take a look at the more "normal" bus network in and around Sion.
Today is Shrove Tuesday
Yummy yumsters!

How is our shriving going? And how does eating pancaked help us to be shriven?

The Church season of Lent has lost its impact over the years; but, essentially, it was a preparation for the drama and power of the Crucifixion and Resurrection narrative. The desire was to be "absolved" of our sins before beginning the spiritual preparation for Easter.

One way was to do "penance", to "pay a price" for our transgressions. That penance morphed into a more spartan lifestyle for the Lenten period. Hence the modern nonsense of "giving up chocolates for Lent".

To mark this move into a more challenging lifestyle, we would use up all our rich food (fat and eggs) and make pancakes with them. Thereafter it would be dry bread and water, theoretically. We would thus be shriven on Shrove Tuesday!

A more Biblical theology is that of Grace. God's forgiveness is FREELY given to those who genuinely repent; it is not necessary to try to pay Him. But it is worth remembering that "repentance" is much more than "saying sorry"; it  is about a genuine desire to put right what we have done wrong and do something positive instead.

Maybe if we gave the money saved on Lenten luxuries to the poor , plus a bucketful more,  we might be more appropriately and usefully shriven.

Tomorrow : get the ashpan out!
 Next Bus Sédunois blog : Wednesday 1st March 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Navette Autonome (4)

Sion (French) Sitten (German) Seduno (Italian)
Three languages are spoken in Switzerland, namely French, Geman and Italian hence many organisations need three versions of their name. A resident of Sion s called a Sédunois which seems to apply irrespective of language.The people of the Canton of Grisons will be seething at the list of languages. Many of them speak Romansch, a fourth "official" language in Switzerland.

Viafier (road of iron) = railway : Glatsch = ice cream

Where is Sion?
It is in Switzerland, east of Geneva and in the valley of the River Rhône, a watercourse that we have met at Lyon. It is the capital of the Canton of Valais. At a cursory glance the town seems built on flat river plain ...
... surrounded by gorgeous Swiss mountains. But this 16th century engraving exaggerates the town's distinctive features.
Look closely today and you can see what the ancient engraver chose to emphasise.
In and around the town are several distinctive peaks of solid rock and each of these two chunks is host to an ancient building.

On the left is ...
... Châteaau de Tourbillon dates back to the 13th century and was badly damaged by fire in 1788 and oft rebuilt and re-occupied, It is now a ruin but still spectacular.
On the right is The Basilique de Valère ...
... which can also date itself back to the 13th Century. Its purpose was a combination of worship and political and religious domination of the region.
You really wouldn't want to mess wit the folk that lived and rules up there!

At the foot of these two peaks is the old town, now largely pedestrianised or with traffic severely restricted as per the blue lines of the Google map.
On the southern edge of the old town you will find the railway station.
The station is on the main line between Geneva, Lausanne and Northern Italy via the Simplon Tunnel (click on the map below to enlarge) ...
... and thus has a wide range of international and interurban trains,

Next door (of course, this is Switzerland) is the superb covered bus station.
From here buses run by the Swiss Postal Service ...
... run inter urban and rural bus routes. A wide variety of vehicles is operated nationally, ranging from minibus-type buses ...
... to impressive double deckers.
The livery includes the traditional post horn.
And just round the corner from the bus station is the main stop for Sion's town buses.
Note the size of the stop name on the shelter (left); no mistaking where you are. fbb plans to take a look at these services later this week. For the time being here is an articulated single decker.
Note, in passing, that Sion has a population of about 34,000 people. Here is a list of English towns of similar size.
Contrast and compare!

It is to this little town that Navya driverless buses have come, resplendent in their Post Bus livery.
This operation is very different from the others that fbb has reviewed; as we shall see tomorrow.

 Next Navette Autunome blog : Tuesday 28th February 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bus Bits Blog (2)

Don't Go By Bus - Buy a Bike!
there are  number of schemes to encourage healthy and low-cost living by buying a bike. This one has numerous benefits as per the extract below.
Which organisation is supporting this campaign for cheap transport?
Stagecoach South West!

Subsidy Supports Somerset Services
1. Nuclear Powered Bus?
The bus route between Bridgwater and Minehead via Nether Stowey has had a tortured history.
At one stage the now-defunct Webber Bus ran very two hours ...
... with a re-jigged service 14 from Buses of Somerset in direct competition. 
Mysteriously, once Webber wobbled into ignominy, First decided that the route was not economic and cut back to a relatively local run only as far as Cannington ...
... with a couple of peak hour journeys to Nether Stowey.
This left a significant number of communities unserved, In steps EDF.
Many readers will be mystified as to why a major French energy company is running a bus between Bridgwater and Minehead. But there is a link via this bit of old news on First's web site.

EDF Energy has confirmed that it has awarded a ten-year contract to ‘Somerset Passenger Solutions’ ...
... a 50/50 joint venture between bus operator First Bus and family business Crosville Motor Services (part of the JJP Group), to provide bus services during the construction of the new nuclear power station.
Somerset Passenger Solutions will run the bus, which will be FREE, for 12 months! It will run three return trips Monday to Friday only on the old 14 route.

fbb can only guess how this came about. Presumably the mysterious "them" managed to persuade EDF that people who were agin this nuclear hing might be mollified if EDF did something kind and lovely for the poor folk of the area.

It is very unclear as to when it runs; nothing appears on Traveline, for example. It is also a bit woolly when it comes to who may use it. The introductory article says it will only serve places which do not currently have an alternative service.

Almost everywhere has a service (of sorts) on college days ...
... via First's route 15.

2. Mixed Money for Minehead
"Minehead without and Luccombe" has stumped the local press' team of observant sub-editor. Minehead Without (capital "W") is a parish to the west of Minehead itself.
The town service in Minehead and its links to Porlock have, likewise, been unstable for some time. First had agreed to run a reduced service as an interim measure ...
... following the departure of Webber; but this generous offer was due to run out at the end of this month.

Various parish councils have agreed to put their hands into their council taxpayers' pockets and sub a revised service now numbered 10 and 11. 10 trundles to and from Porlock every two hours (ish) ...
... and, in the gaps. the one bus in steam operates service 11, a revised (and revised yet again) Minehead town service.
All power to the elbows of Minehead's residents if they can understand the timetable. Or the maps?
Service 10 map
Service 11 map (Minehead town area)
And adding in road names etc, does NOT make it any easier. Maybe, when fbb has a week or so to spare, he will visit Minehead and settle down with the tranquilisers and sort it all out.

And Finally
fbb decided that entering into his 73rd year yesterday was an event well worth forgetting. But two reminders were unavoidable. This from RailUK Forums ...
... and this seemingly anonymous box of good things from Amazon.
Eventually, Mrs fbb discovered a very small piece of printout which explained that the gift came from No 1 son. The Cheddar Cheese nibbles were tested IMMEDIATELY.

And were delicious!

Rail snippets originally planned for today have been postponed.

 Next Navette Autonome blog : Monday 27th February