Chanel Turner

As global urbanisation increases and our relationship with the environment takes centre stage, topics like low emission and less congestion come into play. We recently partnered with the visionary team at Scania Group, and joined their movement to take urban transport ‘to the NXT level’.

In this swiftly developing world, consumers are always being sold the technological world of ‘tomorrow’. Mobile phones with face recognition, voice-controlled lighting, robot cafés, AI in retail apps, VR headsets - Alexa, carry on my list of consumer tech… You get the point.

But another key technological development that has us all waiting with bated breath, and a development that will shift both the consumer market and urban transport as we know it, is driverless vehicles. From self-driving domestic cars and ‘smart’ trucks, to driverless taxis; the autonomous transport of tomorrow is firmly in our sights.

Pufferfish are incredibly proud to reference the transport experts at Scania as a key client of ours in the transport space, and having worked in collaboration with them for the 2019, UITP Global Public Transport Summit in Sweden, we’re also proud to be part of their journey to changing the very identity of autonomous transport.

UITP saw the unveiling of Scania’s new ‘battery electric self-driving urban concept vehicle’ - entitled Scania NXT. An intuitive, innovative, and awe-inspiring bus ‘designed with the flexibility to shift from ferrying commuters to and from work in mornings and evenings, delivering goods during the day and collecting refuse at night.’ A vehicle geared to take 2030’s urban transport ‘to the NXT level’, it’s dedication to efficient transport, autonomy and low emissions is something we can not only get behind, but get on board with. Literally.

Pufferfish customised a first-of-its-kind PufferTouch® prototype to be displayed inside Scania NXT. With its crisp 300mm screen and interactive multi-user capabilities, it fit perfectly in the centre of the bus ensuring passengers could interact with it while others explored the innovative environment. To bring it to life, Pufferfish then developed a first-of-its-kind particle based application that illuminated destinations, and intuitively connected touch points on the sphere. Ultimately our custom solution enhanced the high-tech, high-spec bus and ensured visitors to the concept vehicle were not only in awe of the future of public transport, but they engaged with another example of just how intuitive technology can be.

Removing the possibility of interaction with a physical human driver in an autonomous vehicle, Scania had to develop a new idea for how passengers could communicate with the vehicle. “We were looking for something that allowed multi-user interaction and which could be the centre of attention in the vehicle. With the great help of Pufferfish, we developed an interactive display that allowed that possibility” says Scania NXT’s designer, Michael Bedell.

Another unique collaboration was included at the front of the bus - a visual route tracker (of sorts) in the form of a dome, illuminating the journey ahead. Step aside Google Maps, this Pufferfish innovation is a concept design to help passengers understand their bus route, upcoming stops, and ultimately communicate with travellers in the absence of a driver. Pushing the boundaries of interactive technology and fibre optic capabilities, this feature will continue to develop over time, and will ensure fibre optic technology becomes a key feature of autonomous transport communications. For now, it consists of a 3D model of a city with illuminating streets to communicate a bus route; and with the potential integration with smart phones, it could be a significant innovation for both Scania and Pufferfish.

With Scania NXT’s inspiration coming from a consumer market driven by sustainability, a desire for more autonomy, and the need for lower emissions and less congestion, its features include: a modular framework meaning the front and back can attach to a bus body, a truck body, or even a refuse collector, infrared heating system, crab steering, solar panels on the roof, and even batteries on the floor. Scania’s engineers and designers have designed a versatile, hugely innovative, and environmentally friendly urban concept vehicle which can adapt to changing urban assignments as our world develops.

They say they’re taking urban transport ‘to the NXT level’, and that is very clear!

With any new technological development coming to the market, questions of safety and fear of change come to the forefront, and none more so than self-driving vehicles. Will they stop in time? Will they see rogue pedestrians? What if the brakes fail? Our instinct is to question safety, and rightly so. But with Scania building their concept Scania NXT it ensures continuous development, testing and analysis can occur; and ultimately it can shift the way we think about transport (and vehicles in general) for both sustainability and usability, ahead of them becoming a part of our everyday life. “Continuous improvement in small steps has been the hallmark of Scania,” says Project Manager, Robert Sjödin “We are now taking a giant leap into the future. This vehicle will provide invaluable tangible data in our continued development of electrified autonomous vehicles.”

As research, testing and discussions about autonomous transport continue, and our environment takes centre stage, we can’t ignore that ‘technological and infrastructural advances in electric and autonomous vehicles will be key enablers for cities when shifting to a sustainable transport system.’ And with a higher degree of automation, it will be simpler to introduce ‘greater flexibility in public transport’.

Thank you, Scania, for your continued collaboration, and your visionary approach to the future of transport. With Scania NXT being shown at many more shows in the future, we can’t wait to see what you do… NXT.

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