Doppelmayr Tech Automates Chairlift Operations

The Doppelmayr Group already set course for the future of ropeway mobility with the introduction of AURO for gondola lifts back in 2020. The company’s next step in autonomous ropeway mobility is AURO for chairlifts. The ropeway authorities in Switzerland and Austria have now granted the appropriate operating licenses. As well as ensuring a high level of safety, this innovative system saves lift operators up to 35 percent in personnel costs.

Future mobility is autonomous. The Doppelmayr Group recognized this development at an early stage and set course in that direction with AURO (Autonomous Ropeway Operation). While autonomous operation for gondola lifts (AURO-MGD) has been successfully used since 2020 and is enjoying growing demand, chairlifts were an area that had not been addressed to date. This has now changed with the AURO-CLD operating licenses for Switzerland and Austria. The Federal Office of Transport (BAV, Switzerland) and the Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK, Austria) granted operating licenses for the autonomous operation of two chairlifts at the start of the 2023/24 winter season. These licences were preceded by two years of intensive testing of the AURO system on two pilot installations: one in Wildhaus (St. Gallen, Switzerland) and the other in the Silvretta-Montafon ski area (Vorarlberg, Austria).

How autonomous chairlifts work

In the case of AURO-CLD, AI-assisted image processing from Mantis Ropeway Technologies is deployed. With the aid of their software, Doppelmayr’s development partner is able to analyze and evaluate location, image and video data in real time, and to trigger automatic responses. The system identifies hazardous situations in the unloading area at the top station in fractions of a second and decides autonomously, depending on the situation, whether the installation can continue to operate, should be slowed or shut down. As with AURO for gondola lifts, troubleshooting can be performed by one person from the Ropeway Operation Center (ROC) housed in the bottom station or in a separate building.

Up to 35 percent cost saving

Constant, untiring vigilance and fast reaction speed are the hallmarks of the AI-trained system. AURO-CLD doesn’t just rely on its “eyes”. Sensors such as light barrier, ground pressure mat and ramp barrier as well as emergency stop switch and intercom supplement the cameras and make it possible to ensure maximum safety in a wide variety of situations. Growing personnel shortages are increasing the pressure on operating companies when it comes to guaranteeing the availability of their lift installations. This is where AURO-CLD helps to alleviate the problem and can reduce the personnel requirements for a standard installation by up to 50 percent. Taking license costs of AURO-CLD into account, this means a saving in personnel costs of up to 35 percent *1. Further benefits: One employee can supervise several AURO chairlift installations. In addition, existing ropeways can be retrofitted with the appropriate equipment to make them AURO-compatible.
1 Assumption: Headcount reduction from 3 to 1.5

Lift personnel remain indispensable

However, autonomous chairlifts cannot be operated entirely without personnel. One person can supervise one or more installations from the ROC in the bottom station. AURO-CLD takes over the tasks of the employees at the top station. Only resets and restarts need to be performed by the operative in the ROC.

Benefits of AURO-CLD at a glance

  • Up to 35 percent lower personnel costs
  • Eases the effects of staffing shortages
  • Higher safety through fast reaction to hazard situations
  • Excellent overview thanks to multiple camera viewing angles
  • Uninterrupted vigilance as the system never tires
  • Retrofitting possible on older existing installations
  • Mantis Ropeway Technologies

Mantis is a Zurich-based start-up in the area of computer vision, in which Doppelmayr holds a participating interest. Mantis develops AI-controlled camera systems and the relevant software, which allows ski resorts to operate their chairlifts autonomously. With the aid of cameras, the software automatically identifies hazardous situations when passengers exit the lift and stops the installation if necessary. The system is more cost-effective than and as reliable as human operating personnel and eases the growing problem of staffing shortages.

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