The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has held the first US airport demonstration of three-vehicle autonomous platooning.

The trials – undertaken with Ohmio, a New Zealand-based autonomous mobility company – took place at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

Held on a closed road at JFK, the Ohmio demonstration focused on the use of eight-passenger driverless shuttles in a three-vehicle platoon travelling approximately 7ft apart at 20mph without any physical connection.

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The trial featured eight-passenger driverless shuttles

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 enables 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 centre. Each vehicle has six lidar sensors and the pilot was conducted in an area of a parking lot closed to the general public. 

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The demonstration took place on a closed road at JFK

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, PANYNJ noted.

“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 travellers in the region to get where they need to go faster and more efficiently.” 

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. PANYNJ will host a further pilot in July, to demonstrate how an autonomous shuttle van could operate in mixed traffic at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Images: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey