RABus brings self-driving buses to the road

New joint project tests electrified and automated vehicles in regular traffic - KIT researches acceptance and effects

The shuttles offer space for up to 22 people and with their compact dimensions can be integrated into the urban traffic flow. (Fig .: ZF)

The shuttles offer space for up to 22 people and with their compact dimensions can be integrated into the urban traffic flow. (Fig .: ZF)

The aim of the new joint project RABus is to test public transport with electrified and automated vehicles: In Mannheim and Friedrichshafen, self-driving buses are to take part in regular road traffic. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) carry out the accompanying research on demand, acceptance and effects in this real laboratory. Building on this, a model for efficient public transport with autonomous buses in Baden-Württemberg is to be created. The state's transport ministry is funding RABus with seven million euros. Transport Minister Winfried Hermann handed over the funding decision today (November 18, 2020) in Stuttgart.

The “real laboratory for automated bus operation in public transport in the city and in the country”, or RABus for short, is one of the measures implemented in the strategic state goals for automated and networked mobility in Baden-Württemberg. As part of a festive virtual event, Baden-Württemberg's incumbent transport minister, Winfried Hermann, handed over the funding decision of seven million euros to the RABus consortium today. These include the Research Institute for 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, implementation and testing of economical and reliable driving operations with automated vehicles are of great relevance for the future of local public transport. At the moment, automated vehicles in road-bound public transport are usually only traveling at low speed. This leads to longer travel times and therefore less acceptance and less use. The goal of the RABus research project is to change this: Mannheim and Friedrichshafen act as real laboratories - supported by the respective transport associations. A largely economical public transport system with electrified and automated vehicles is to be established in both cities by the end of 2023. In the Mannheim real-world laboratory, the focus is on automated operation in mixed traffic in a new city quarter; In the real laboratory in Friedrichshafen, on the other hand, automated overland operation is the focus of activities.

In order to achieve an adapted and at the same time safe driving behavior in the respective environment, the vehicles should be able to “swim along” with acceptable speeds in regular traffic - in and out of town. Shuttles from 2getthere, a subsidiary of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, are used for this. They offer space for up to 22 people and, with their compact dimensions of 6 x 2.1 x 2.8 meters, can be integrated into the urban traffic flow as required and independent of the timetable.

Traffic model with autonomous buses for Baden-Württemberg

Science is also intensively involved in the project through accompanying research on acceptance, economic efficiency and technical solution approaches: “RABus is a real laboratory in which we obtain meaningful data by using several vehicles under real conditions. This goes far beyond a pure demonstration operation, ”explains Dr. Martin Kagerbauer from the Institute for Transport (IFV) at KIT. In the RABus project, the IFV has taken on the accompanying research on demand, acceptance and effects on road traffic. To do this, the researchers evaluate the data generated in real operation. In addition, Kagerbauer and his team interview passengers before, during and after use. The feedback should flow into the design of future public transport systems. In addition, the Karlsruhe research team is creating traffic demand models for Friedrichshafen and Mannheim, in which automated buses are integrated and which allow the efficient use of such buses to be simulated. Building on this, future public transport systems can be designed with autonomous buses. In addition, the research group will develop a traffic model that uses the results of the real operations to provide information about other potential and useful areas of application in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Details on the KIT Mobility Systems Center: http://www.mobilitaetssysteme.kit.edu

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