Great strides have been made in recent years with regard to automating the driver function for highway vehicles. This seemingly radical development has been made possible through advances in computer technology, GPS, on-vehicle obstacle sensors, artificial intelligence, and other factors. Among the principal drivers of this technology is greatly enhanced safety. In particular, automation promises to significantly reduce road accidents by eliminating the major contributing factor to such accidents, which is human error. Given aviation's critical focus on safety, the highly controlled airport apron environment is the ideal test bed for early adoption of this coming technological revolution. There is a need to establish the conditions for early adoption of automated driver technology to airside ground vehicle operations.
The objectives of this research are to: (1) assess the advantages, practicality, equipment requirements, system protocols, and standards required to fully or partially automate the operation of airport service vehicles operating on the airside; (2) identify future research needs; and (3) prepare a work plan (including a list of tasks, schedule, and budget) for a future full-scale field test of automated groundside vehicle operations (not included in this project). The results should be of sufficient detail that practitioners will be able to provide system developers and equipment manufacturers with clear guidance on system requirements that address levels of dependability, tolerance standards, and interoperability requirements.