Autonomous driving will play a role for more than just individual transport in the future. When it comes to climate neutrality and multimode/intermodal transport, it is even more relevant to develop, realise and test economical and reliable public transport operations with automated vehicles. Currently, automated vehicles in road-based public transport usually only travel at a low speed. The low speed makes for longer travel times, which in turn leads to these vehicles being accepted and used less. Changing this perception is what the RABus research project aims to do, with Mannheim and Friedrichshafen acting as real-world laboratories with the support of local public transport organisations. Largely economical public transport operations with automated, electric vehicles are planned to be established in both cities by the end of 2023.
In Mannheim, the focus is on automated operations in mixed traffic in a new city neighbourhood, while Friedrichshafen will focus on automated operations over longer distances. RABus is one of the initiatives under the “state’s strategic objectives for automated and connected transport in Baden-Württemberg”. During a recent virtual event, Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann presented the RABus consortium with confirmation of EUR 7 million in financial support. The consortium includes the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr GmbH, Stadtverkehr Friedrichshafen GmbH, with DB ZugBus Regionalverkehr Alb-Bodensee GmbH and ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
The development of electric bus shuttles up to autonomy level 4 is planned to be trialled in the real-world laboratories. To achieve appropriate and safe driving in the relevant environment, plans call for the vehicles to be able to “swim with” the regular traffic at regular speeds. The vehicles being employed are shuttles from 2getthere, a subsidiary of ZF Friedrichshafen AG. They offer space for up to 22 passengers and can be integrated into the flow of traffic as required and independently of any timetable thanks to their compact dimensions.
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