From 6 August onwards an autonomous tiny bus is scheduled to start shuttling between the Ommelander Ziekenhuis and the nearest bus stop in Scheemda.
This bus stop at the Molenstraat is located at about 1.5 km distance from the hospital’s main entrance. The tiny bus shall transport patients, visitors as well as hospital employees to and from the hospital. An on board shuttle host shall accompany the passengers, thus also guaranteeing human intervention in case an emergency occurs. The shuttle pilot is scheduled for at least half a year. If the pilot proves to be a success, shuttle services shall be permanently integrated in the local public transportation services. In a next phase, its route may well be expanded to the city centre and later on even to the Scheemda railway station.
The Northern Netherlands are – at a national level – at the vanguard of the development of autonomous transportation. For the Province of Groningen this is the first autonomous tiny bus pilot, which shall actually include passenger transportation. The offered shuttle transportation shall be free during the pilot period. Timetables shall be coordinated with existing bus services. Previously, unmanned vehicle tests have already been conducted without passenger transportation in the Eemshaven, at the Zernike location in Groningen and in Loppersum. In 2016 a pilot with an autonomous tiny bus ran for two months in the small town of Appelscha in the Province of Fryslân. However, the tiny bus used in Scheemda, which is scheduled to pilot over a much longer period of time, shall be supplied by another party: the French company NAVYA. Arriva shall provide the shuttle host. By testing different kinds of vehicles, the northern provinces are collaborating with different other parties in an effort to gain more experience in the field of autonomous transportation.
The provinces of Groningen, Fryslân and Drenthe regard autonomous transportation as a means of maintaining and improving the accessibility of as well as the liveability within the Northern Netherlands. This involves all types of transportation by road, rail, water as well as air. The provinces are currently collaborating – with several other parties – to become the main pilot region for autonomous transportation. The autonomous shuttle bus project in Scheemda is a collaboration between the Province of Groningen, the Ommelander Ziekenhuis, the Municipality of Oldambt and Arriva Nederland. Arriva is currently exploring – together with a number of government authorities – the possibilities regarding the deployment of autonomous transportation in areas which currently lack public transportation services.