Heading to the Future in the Highly Automated Shuttle

As part of the OTS 1.0 research project, IAV is developing an autonomous people carrier to provide mobility in tomorrow’s metropolises

Cities and local authorities are facing major challenges: urban areas are becoming ever more densely populated and sprawling, rural populations are declining. This will have repercussions for tomorrow’s local public transport which must ensure downtown mobility on the one hand, and link suburbs with city centers on the other. One approach is provided by a fully automated, driverless transport system which, based on electric vehicles, is being developed by IAV in cooperation with partners Siemens, IKEM, Munich University of Technology and others within the OTS 1.0 research project. It is part of the “Erneuerbar mobil” (Renewably mobile) program funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

OTS 1.0 follows an all-embracing approach that covers all aspects of fully automated driving in real-world urban traffic, including vehicle, infrastructure, traffic planning and management and legal framework. “Our aim is not only to provide a showcase for demonstration purposes. Rather than this, we want to develop an overall passenger transport system suitable for everyday application that will be in operation for several months in the test phase and, during this period, take part in real-world traffic”, explains Mirko Taubenreuther, head of the Longitudinal & Lateral Assistance department at IAV. This distinguishes OTS 1.0 from other research projects which merely cover individual aspects of the matter and therefore automatically provide only a fragmented reflection of reality.

Within the OTS 1.0 project research network, IAV is responsible for developing the overall vehicle. Among other aspects, this covers the entire hardware and software, including sensors for the fully automated driving functions and the communication interfaces to the infrastructure. In automated driving, a distinction is made between the various levels of driver assistance: from level 1, at which specific assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC), only help the driver, to level 5, at which no driver is needed anymore for participating in traffic. “Proceeding from the key considerations of the mobility concept, we have opted in favor of developing the vehicle from scratch, gearing it to meet the complex requirements of level 5”, Taubenreuther says. “The gives us major advantages over retrofitting existing vehicles, for example for driving environment recognition, which needs to provide an all-round 360° vehicle scan.”

Apart from lidar sensors, IAV’s concept also involves radar sensors and cameras, the signals of which are interconnected by data fusion. In theory, this means the shuttle can drive autonomously even without communicating with the infrastructure. However, in complex traffic situations, such as intersections, assistance from outside, in the form of driving environment information, is helpful. For this, project partner Siemens is developing an intelligent infrastructure that relays relevant, driving environment information on other road users directly to the vehicle and also sends traffic situation data to the entire fleet via a control center.

Passenger compartment concept without steering wheel and cockpit

In developing the vehicle, IAV has also revamped the passenger compartment. In the test phase, the driver will only be on board to monitor the driving function. Then, in a possible later regular service scenario, the driver will not be needed at all anymore. Given the purpose of this fully automated people shuttle, particular importance has been attached to features such as barrier-free access to the interior and surveillance of the passenger compartment.

Testing will get underway on the people shuttle as early as April 2018 on the premises of Siemens AG in Munich Perlach. Following completion of testing in day-to-day operation in mid-2018, practical findings will be available as a basis for determining how operating safety can be ensured for this type of fully automated transport in everyday service by combining vehicle and infrastructure sensor systems. In view of the overarching approach behind OTS 1.0 which, in addition to vehicle and infrastructure, also covers aspects of urban and road planning, the transport system is suitable specifically for new urban housing areas or for newly structured city districts creating both modern residential as well as mobility concepts that are integrated in the infrastructure. “In specific application cases, we will see the realization of initial projects involving the fully automated people shuttle as early as 2025 to 2030”, says Taubenreuther, firmly convinced.