MVG develop automated vehicles for public transportation

Mon 10th Jul, 2023

Photo © MVG/MANMINGA (linked website in German) funding project partners have jointly set the objective of advancing local public transportation. The focus is on the automation of on-demand vehicles and buses over the course of the 34-month project, which runs through to the end of 2025. The research project is being funded with about 13 million euros by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) as part of the funding guideline "Autonomous and Connected Driving in Public Traffic.".

As the Managing Director of Mobility for SWM and the CEO of MVG, Ingo Wortmann said, "We are pleased to be able to advance the automation of public transportation as a partner in the MINGA project and to set standards for the industry. By doing this, we improve public transportation's appeal to users while laying the groundwork for future automation and flexible new services. Thus, our MINGA-related activities serve as a crucial pillar of our corporate strategy, which will enable us to modernize Munich's public transportation system. Thus, we can create an on-demand service that best complements the streetcar, bus, and subway. The appropriate workstations have already been incorporated into our new control center so that MVG is ready for this. Another essential component is a medium-term replacement for our high-capacity, diesel-powered bus trains, which are challenging to electrify in this configuration, so that it can run our bus fleet entirely electrically by 2035. The two solo buses, also known as bus platoons, that are virtually connected, allow for this. A third significant sub-project entails the development of an automated solo bus that will eventually be driverless. In general, MINGA is a significant step for us toward future public transportation. ".

A key project partner, Stadtwerke München (SWM) is leading the development of two automated bus systems as well as an autonomous on-demand ridesharing service. Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft (MVG) is also a key partner in the project. Teams from research and development, the municipality, and the operating company are collaborating to conduct a comprehensive study that spans all phases of construction, from planning to permitting to implementation. The testing area for the vehicles should present a variety of traffic difficulties and be well connected to a depot. Technical setup and regulatory aspect clarification for the operation of these autonomous services are planned to be completed by 2024. Starting with a trial run in 2025, approval for passenger use is anticipated by the project's conclusion.

On-demand automated transportation

SWM and MVG are setting up a ride-pooling system with three to five automated vehicles operating on-demand in collaboration with the mobility division of the City of Munich and the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary ioki, a technology company offering software solutions for public transportation. The project will advertise for public bids for the purchase of the vehicles for automated on-demand operation in mixed traffic.

Dr. Michael Barillère-Scholz, co-founder and CEO of ioki, said: "Autonomous ride pooling is one of the key concepts on the way to a demand-oriented and therefore alluring public transportation system. We will contribute our expertise in mass transit routing and pooling as well as our ioki platform to the MINGA project and work closely with the partners to further develop them. The project's findings have the potential to significantly affect Germany's public transportation system in a sustainable way. ".

A number of phases are planned for the operation's preparation. Before conducting test runs with passengers under technical supervision in conjunction with the licensing authorities, safety drivers will first conduct a trial operation without passengers.

The study will offer information on driving performance and maintenance to optimize processes in addition to technical implementation. Additionally, specific ideas for the technical management of autonomous vehicles in regional public transportation are being developed. A standard for the sector will also be created in this regard.

Regular use of automated buses

In addition, SWM is testing various automated bus line operation systems in collaboration with academics from the University of Stuttgart, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, and the mobility division of the City of Munich. In order to accommodate those with limited mobility, barrier-free services are also being developed.

In collaboration with the producer MAN Truck and Bus, a 12-meter-long electric bus is being outfitted with a Self-Driving System (SDS) in order to automate a solo bus (see MAN announcement dated May 17, 2023). The main goal is to work with the licensing authorities to ensure that the line is operating properly and safely for traffic.

"Sustainability is a central component of MAN's corporate strategy," says Barbaros Oktay, Head of Bus at MAN Truck & Bus. For this reason, we are methodically switching our products over to electric drives. On the other hand, we are advancing digitization and automation. The MINGA project is, in our opinion, a critical step toward the mobility revolution".

Manufacturer Ebusco is a collaborator on the project for the development of two bus platoons. To do this, two buses must be arranged in a convoy with a virtual drawbar connecting them. Automatically, the second vehicle follows the rear bus. High-capacity bus units can now be offered, which allows for the replacement of diesel-powered bus trains with high-capacity buses.

The future of transportation belongs to electric vehicles, according to Wolfgang Hackauf, Sales Director for Germany at Ebusco. "Innovation is in our DNA," he said. Our first electric buses, which we delivered to SWM many years ago and are still in use today in Munich, were electric buses. As part of the MINGA project, we are proud to now take the next step toward the future of electric driving together. We anticipate further testing these "bus platoons" on German roads with our ground-breaking and lightweight Ebusco 3.0 because we think platooning will be another step toward flexibility, efficiency, and cost minimization".


Working together on the remaining work packages
In all six of the project's work packages, SWM and MVG have a direct hand in it. SWM and MVG are also involved, among other things, in the integration of the on-demand offer for display in MVG's information media, prioritizing automated buses in road traffic, assessing the acceptance of autonomous driving offerings, and scaling up automated public transportation systems in the four projects in which they do not have the lead role.

Photo © MVG/MAN

Article rewritten from FZI Press Release 

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