Mobility is changing: What we take for granted today was inconceivable a hundred years ago. And the industry is facing major changes in the future too – as a result of autonomous driving, for instance, and the associated changes in established business models. This is why IAV is addressing new mobility services while using its vast expertise from automotive development.
Although it has only been around for a few years, car-sharing is taken for granted today as a mobility component. To some extent, it also calls into question the automobile manufacturers’ conventional business model: If more and more people manage their life without a car of their own, sales volume could fall.
This is why the OEMs are starting to rethink. “Today, many OEMs want and must offer more than just cars”, Dr. Alexander Roy has observed, who, as senior technical consultant at IAV, is exploring the subject of mobility. “In the future, they want to develop themselves from being manufacturers and, for example, offer car-sharing, car-pooling agencies or chauffeur services.”
Many of these new services will demand a close mesh between vehicle and IT systems – a subject IAV has been looking into for many years. “For example, we make vehicles suitable for car-sharing”, reports Hans-Christian Winter, technical consultant for mobility at IAV. “But we have also developed solutions for intermodal mobility that can identify the best combination of car, rail, local public transport and bicycle for a given route.” With their broad and varied experience, IAV’s experts are also ideally prepared for the next revolution in mobility: the autonomous vehicle.
Taxi cabs without a cab driver
Cars that can move through traffic without any action on the part of the driver are far more than just a technical challenge – in future, they will bring massive change to entire business models and sectors. Because as soon as the technology really does drive autonomously, for example, it will in most cases not need a cab or bus driver any more.
“Today, the human drivers still dominate the business model because they incur the most cost”, Roy says. “Autonomous driving will give rise to a new cost structure and thus also lead to a new structure in mobility.” For example, fleets of autonomous vehicles are conceivable that automatically drive to their customers and only need monitoring from a central office. The mobility services of taxi cab, car-sharing, local public transport (on underused routes) and delivery services, for instance, are facing a revolution.
Together with other companies, IAV wants to examine a scenario like this as part of a publicly funded project. The aim is to set up and run a fleet of what, initially, will be highly automated vehicles, i.e. still accompanied by a driver, in order to test tomorrow’s new mobility concepts in practice. The fleet is to move dynamically around a depot, with customers being able to order a vehicle by app. From the operator’s perspective, this raises numerous questions: How high is user acceptance? How many vehicles will be needed for a certain region with its specific mobility demands?
Among other aspects, IAV wants to help find answers to these points in a macroscopic traffic simulation. It is to cover large areas, like towns and cities or en- tire regions and represent means of transport, such as cars, trucks, rail, buses or bicycles as software agents. It will, of course, be able to model new forms of mobility, such as car-sharing – also with autonomous vehicles.
This will also make it possible to simulate traffic flows. In a university project, IAV is working on modeling of this kind – to compute the fastest route at any time through a city, for instance. Anyone familiar with these traffic flows can also optimize them: “For example, on specific routes, individual vehicles can be replaced with buses or shared cabs”, Winter says, “or it will also be possible to optimize the way passengers are spread over existing vehicles.”
Counting traffic by satellite
IAV is also working on evaluating satellite-assisted videos that can be used for recording traffic flows less expensively and over larger areas than using conventional methods, such as induction loops or cameras. “Based on our experience in many different fields of technology, we have an all-embracing understanding of mobility“, Roy summarizes. “And we can also apply our expertise to new fields: On behalf of a client, we are currently looking at what can be learned from car-sharing to manage fleets of commercial vehicles.” Our own staff are also providing the experts with valuable information. In a survey among their 3,000 or so colleagues at the Gifhorn operation, they have investigated the means of transport staff use to get to work. From this, they recommended actions that need to be taken in order to improve the situation.
The Hermann Appel Prize also takes the growing significance of this subject into account: In the “Future Mobility” category, IAV gives awards every year to outstanding work done by the rising generation of engineers. The message is clear: Besides classic automotive engineering, IAV is also offering more and more mobility engineering.