Karlsruhe, Germany, 27/09/2017. Autonomous vehicles, electric drives, connected transport and mobility services – the transport sector is at the beginning of a period of significant disruption. This in turn offers huge potential for unlocking major opportunities, especially in public transport. In this context, a new research project headed by PTV was initiated, dealing with autonomous and electric mini-buses and buses.
The project “Research into the preconditions for and fields of application of autonomous and electric (mini) buses in public transport” commissioned and promoted by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMV) was launched on 1 September. The 2-year project will be managed by a consortium that consists of PTV Planung Transport Verkehr AG (Management), PTV Transport Consult GmbH, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the consulting and audit firm Rödl & Partner. The partners will analyse national and international approaches and projects, success factors, essential basic conditions and obstacles concerning the use of autonomous, electrified (mini) buses. A special focus will be on vehicle technology and infrastructure, space and traffic-related conditions, acceptance, as well as legal, operational and economic aspects and possible business models. The results will be incorporated into a practical guide, including recommendations for action.
The current challenges are well known: Traffic volumes are increasing, just like the requirements concerning energy efficiency and avoidance of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. And the world is facing unprecedented social and demographic changes. While urban areas are expecting infrastructure bottlenecks and congestion, there is a declining demand for public transport in rural areas, generating economic problems.
Automation, networking options and electrification can help public transport providers offer on-demand mobility services that are both flexible and convenient. Further advantages arise from reduced air and noise pollution and possible cost savings which allow mobility service providers to offer economically viable services. Vehicle segments, drive types and services could be expanded and vehicle sizes could be adjusted to respond to the actual demand – in terms of time and space. The integration of electric, fully automated and autonomous Robo taxis and minibuses could become part of an integrated public mobility chain, including door-to-door services.
The aim of the research project is to analyse the conditions, fields of application and consequences of the use of (mini) buses in areas with different settlement structures and population densities in order to create the basis for operating these public transport services in real life. As project coordinator, PTV will examine approaches and experiences as well as factors supporting and inhibiting the use of autonomous and electric minibuses and buses. This will include literature reviews and Web analytics as well expert interviews and modelling approaches designed to model autonomous vehicle fleets.
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