Autonomous E-Buses in Hamburg

04.06.2018  — 

Research and development project in Hamburg’s HafenCity; Goal: integration in regular traffic at up to 50 km/h

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IAV is working on the integration of autonomously moving minibuses into real city traffic as part of the research and development project HEAT (Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation) together with the strong partners DLR, Hamburger Behörde für Wissenschaft, Verkehr und Innovation, Hamburger Hochbahn AG, IKEM and Siemens. The vehicles will be traveling at up to 50 km / h. The project will set standards worldwide. For more than 15 years, IAV has been driving the technical development of autonomous vehicles and has demonstrated its leading role in this field on several occasions.

One key feature of the HEAT project is the gradual approach in order to gather experience in the individual phases for a subsequent step-by-step increase in route length, automation level and vehicle speed.. The first phase beginning in spring 2019 will consist of trials without passengers on a defined test route; a professional vehicle attendant will be on board to intervene directly if needed. The next phase should then include passengers for the first time. A vehicle attendant will still be on board. Completely autonomous operation (without vehicle attendant) should be implemented by the time the ITS World Congress takes place in 2021.

The intention is for the vehicle to be integrated in real road traffic which requires a top speed of 50 km/h. To this end, the vehicle needs to be fitted with cameras, radar and lidar, while additional roadside infrastructure (active and passive sensors) will be also necessary. To this end, the route will be equipped with sensor elements and digital communication systems.

The HOCHBAHN control center will monitor actual operation and give the vehicle commands and instructions, depending on the prevailing traffic situation. The vehicle, the infrastructure and the control center form an integrated system that should provide a high level of safety and availability in autonomous operation.

The test route in Hamburg’s HafenCity will be altogether 3.6 kilometers long and serve nine bus stops – six existing ones and three new ones. The three-stage approach has been deliberately chosen. Initially the electric shuttle bus will run along the streets Am Sandtorkai, Am Sandtorpark, Am Dalmannkai and Großer Grasbrook. By 2021, the test route should then include Am Sandtorkai, Brooktorkai, Shanghaiallee, Überseeallee, Am Sandtorpark, Hübenerstraße, Großer Grasbrook and Am Kaiserkai.

In the final stage, the vehicle will cross 12 traffic light junctions and have to change direction eight times. The scope and step-by-step development of the test operation will be geared to warrant maximum safety at all times, as stipulated in the approval process.
The shuttle bus developed by IAV is about 5 meters long, 2 meters wide and 2.6 meters high. It weighs about 4 metric tons and has capacity for maximum sixteen passengers. There will be ten seats (two benches with four seats each and a hinged bench with two seats). The shuttle bus is also fitted with a ramp to take a wheelchair on board when the need arises. The first vehicle will probably be arriving in Hamburg before the end of the year. Altogether three vehicles are planned for the research and development project. The batteries for the electric drive are to be recharged at Vattenfall in the HafenCity.

In addition to the vehicle specially developed for the project, the project will be looking above all at issues of traffic and IT infrastructure, digital control technology and the technical interfaces. The most important goal of the project is to prove that autonomous shuttle buses can be used in local public transport. The trial route for the emission-free electric buses is in Hamburg’s HafenCity in the immediate vicinity of the new “Elbphilharmonie” concert hall. The official go-ahead was given by the project partners at a press conference today.

Transport Senator Frank Horch: “In 2021, Hamburg will be hosting the ITS World Congress for Intelligent Transport Systems. By then, the aim is to proceed step by step to make the combination of digitalization and mobility a visible, tangible feature in Hamburg’s cityscape. In this context, we are now paving the way for future technologies such as autonomous and connected driving. The intention is for public transport service providers to be the driving forces behind this development. After all, local public transport will continue to be the mobility backbone of our city. Projects such as HEAT aim to improve the flow of traffic with fewer vehicles which are used to their full capacity, which is something that cannot be said for private cars. At the same time, they operate with zero emissions on the local scale and thus make a vital contribution to cleaner air and less noise.”

Henrik Falk, CEO at HOCHBAHN: “Autonomous vehicles will shape the mobility of tomorrow. HOCHBAHN wants to grasp the chances offered by this technology to develop attractive services that make it completely superfluous to use private cars, at least in the city centers. We are working with our partners to open the door to innovative solutions.” HOCHBAHN is taking on the project management in this case, as well as operational implementation and integration in the HOCHBAHN control center.

Manfred Fuhg, Head of the Mobility Division at Siemens Germany:“We are working with the project partners to devise tomorrow’s local public transport. Autonomous electric vehicles will play a crucial role and revolutionize mobility. The contribution made by Siemens to the HEAT project consists in the roadside infrastructure, software solutions and integration of the autonomous vehicles. The whole concept will be optimized to such an extent that local public transport becomes individual local public transport.”

Legal aspects of the HEAT project are being dealt with by IKEM (Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility). Primarily this entails obtaining the necessary permits and approvals for the project, also with regard to the related requirements to be met by the vehicle, the infrastructure and regular passenger service. Here again, the HEAT project will be doing fundamental groundwork, as the current legislative framework does not yet make allowances for autonomous driving on level 5 (without a driver). The special aspect of autonomous driving is that the technical systems have to perform all the driver’s tasks in terms of complying with traffic rules. HEAT therefore also aims to show that an autonomous vehicle can be correctly and safely homologated, registered and operated.

Matthias Hartwig, Head of Mobility at IKEM: “Traffic on our roads is so complex that even 50 years from now there will still be no unconditional homologation for driverless vehicles. But conditional homologation for specific, verified applications should become routine in just a few years. That is why we are testing autonomous driving in the HEAT project in a clearly defined test area. On this basis, technical features and the legal framework will then have to go through further development in order to gradually open up new applications and traffic areas.”

Needless to say that the project pays special attention to the people actually being addressed by the new transport concept of an autonomous bus. Using the bus should be made as easy and pleasant as possible, combined with a high feeling of safety. The DLR (German Aerospace Center) is the project partner responsible for accompanying research, which includes analyzing user requirements to obtain input about the design of the vehicles and of the transport service they provide. Other aspects of research include evaluating passenger acceptance and examining interaction between the system and other road users in the trial area of Hamburg’s HafenCity.

Dr. Annika Dreßler, DLR Project Manager for User-centered Accompanying Research for HEAT: “Developing the operation of autonomous electric buses is a step toward the future of public transport. Automation and connectivity open up new possibilities for making local public transport efficient and demand-oriented in order to offer an attractive, eco-friendly alternative to everyone using their own private cars. People will have to be the main focus if this is going to have any chance of becoming generally accepted.”

Initial preparations for upgrading the infrastructure will begin in the next few months, with the first test drives then scheduled for the start of next year. The autonomous shuttle buses will not be replacing any of the regular bus services but will provide an additional option that the first passengers can use from spring 2019. All passengers will be given brief instructions during the initial phase. Passengers will travel on the shuttle free of charge.

Hamburg will invest altogether 5.2 million euros in the HEAT project. BWVI (Department for Economic Affairs, Transport and Innovation), LSBG (State Office for Roads, Bridges and Waterways) and HHVA (Hamburg Transport Facilities) will be accounting for 2.7 million euros, which will be funded in full by the Federal Ministry for the Environment. HOCHBAHN will receive further funds amounting to 1 million euros as project leader. The municipal company will be contributing a further 1.5 million euros from its own budget resources.

The following link takes you to an animation of the vehicle (source: IAV GmbH)

Media contacts

Hamburger Hochbahn AG
Christoph Kreienbaum
T 0178 628 2121

Behörde für Wissenschaft, Verkehr und Innovation
Christian Füldner
T 0170 260 4302

Sandra Kaspar
T 030 399 789 090

Lars Kläschen
T 01525 469 0423

Matthias Hartwig
T 0176 807 295 05

Theresa Sieberhein
T 0157 5300 2552

Hamburger Hochbahn AG (HOCHBAHN)
HOCHBAHN was founded in 1911 and operates a fleet of more than 250 subway trains and 1,000 buses carrying more than 1.2 million passengers every day. HOCHBAHN is one of 34 partners in HVV (Hamburg’s integrated transport area), serving 1,400 stops. It is the largest transport service provider in the HVV catchment area. Around 5,000 employees work round the clock for HOCHBAHN to provide an attractive local public transport service offering comfortable, convenient, future-oriented mobility in Hamburg.

BWVI (Department for Economic Affairs, Transport and Innovation)
BWVI is one of eleven departments serving the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. It is responsible for economic and transport policy and for promoting innovation. In implementing the HEAT project, BWVI reverts to the expertise of the Department for the Interior and Sport (Police Transport Department), LSBG (State Office for Roads, Bridges and Waterways) and the municipal company HHVA (Hamburg Transport Facilities). In the context of the project, LSBG is responsible for transport planning while HHVA implements and operates the roadside infrastructure.

With a workforce of more than 7,000 employees, IAV is one of the world’s leading engineering partners to the automotive industry. For 35 years the company has been developing innovative concepts and technologies for future vehicles. Its core fields of expertise include production-ready solutions for all aspects of electronics, powertrain and vehicle engineering.

The Mobility Division at Siemens AG is one of the world’s leading providers of products, systems and solutions for efficient, safe and environmentally friendly transport of people and goods. Business activities include rail vehicles, railway automation, road traffic technology and traffic telematic systems, as well as electrification of the railways. Siemens AG has been present in Hamburg with its own branch since 1898.

IKEM (Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility) is an independent research institute that looks at current climate protection issues, as well as the energy and mobility transition. One of its focal issues is autonomous driving. Here IKEM provides, among others, legal support for pilot tests and analyses business and BOT models for autonomous shuttles.

DLR (German Aerospace Center) is the aerospace research center of the Federal Republic of Germany. It also pursues research and development work for the energy, transport, safety and digitalization sectors. In the HEAT project, DLR researchers investigate the needs and assessments of passengers and other road users with regard to autonomous buses.

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