Thursday, May 19, 2022

Autonomous Bus Operation in Public Transit

In order to accelerate the expansion of public transport services, it makes sense to expand the bus network as a first step. In Hamburg, for example, central stops inside and outside the city center have been connected by the so-called XPressBuses since 2020. This would actually be an ideal step that could be taken quickly to expand the range of mobility services, were it not for the shortage of drivers. According to the Federal Association of German Bus Companies (bdo), there will be a shortage of around 36,000 bus drivers over the next ten years.

Are driverless buses the solution?

"One chance to somewhat mitigate the shortage of skilled workers lies in the use of autonomous vehicles," says Dr. Ulrike Weinrich. She is project manager at the Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS), where she heads the project "Reallabor für den Automatisierten Busbetrieb im ÖPNV in der Stadt und auf dem Land" (RABus). Starting in the fall of 2022, two autonomous shuttles will be deployed in Mannheim and Friedrichshafen respectively, and their operation will then be tested both in urban and intercity traffic. The aim of the project is to test and promote the acceptance of such shuttles among the population and to make recommendations for comparable projects.

Synergies for the last mile

In some areas, autonomous shuttles are already offered as an alternative for the last mile. Without drivers and by offering trips on demand, they are a flexible offer for the last mile and connectivity in rural areas. Politicians also support mobility projects such as RABus, which is receiving 14 million euros in funding from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport. Such funding makes it easier for public transport authorities to provide start-up financing, and for researchers, the reallabs are important instruments for further developing the technology.

In Mannheim, RABus is operated in cooperation with the neighborhood management of the newly emerging FRANKLIN district and is designed to make it easier for residents to access public transport in the more remote parts of the district. "These are new synergies, and the complexity of the projects will thus be spread over several shoulders," explains Dr. Weinrich.

Watch here

Many stakeholders from research, mobility, politics and urban planning are involved in the successful planning and implementation of RABus. We talk about how this cooperation is working and what Dr. Weinrich's vision is for the use of autonomous vehicles in public transport in the DILAX Lab. Watch here the exciting discussion!

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