You’ll find more press releases by clicking on the link to the Shuttles&Co logbook (in German).
A new generation of highly automated electric shuttles was trialled on a new route. Passengers could ride it for free. Following a delay caused by the pandemic, highly automated electric shuttles entered service in Alt-Tegel at 9:30am on 29 June 2021. Passengers could ride a total of three shuttles on two routes in Alt-Tegel completely free of charge.
A new qualitative aspect of the ‘Shuttles&Co’ project was the use of a new generation of vehicles, whose improved technology was being trialled under real conditions. Over the course of the testing, the new vehicles from EasyMile familiarised themselves with the challenging routes, including a roundabout, junctions, cobblestone surfaces, and narrow roads.
The new circular route (328B) ran along Medebacher Weg, Brunowstraße, Eisenhammerweg, Schlieperstraße, and Treskowstraße. The electric shuttles also again served the ‘See-Meile’ route (now route 328A), trialled back in 2019, from Alt-Tegel underground station towards Greenwichpromenade.
Passenger services with the highly automated shuttles were made possible by a research project led by the Berlin Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer Protection, and Climate Action, which was run together with BVG, the Berlin Agency for Electromobility (eMO), and further partners. The project had received funding of 9.8 million euros for the period from 2020 to mid-2022 from the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV). It was supported by the District of Reinickendorf and the Berlin-Tegel fire department, which provided parking lots for the shuttles on its premises.
Operations were run by the BVG, which successfully completed a five-month test of a self-driving shuttle from EasyMile together with eMO, the Senate Department for Economics, Energy, and Public Enterprises, the Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer Protection, and Climate Action, EasyMile, and ioki in 2019. Just like during the ‘See-Meile’ project, BVG attendants were again on board to stop the bus in the event of an emergency and help it bypass any obstacles.
Ingmar Streese, State Secretary for Transport: ‘The recently published citizens’ report on the shuttle project clearly shows that autonomous vehicles are attracting a great deal of interest. Respondents see these vehicles as a valuable addition to the “mobility transition,” and were in favour of them being used in the public transport network if they create true added value in terms of safety, the environment, and urban compatibility. Right now, we’re going to see how this can be done.’
Eva Kreienkamp, Chairwoman of the Management Board at the BVG: ‘Following Berliners’ excellent response to the “See-Meile” project, we’re delighted to be able to take the next step. With three highly automated electric shuttles on two routes, we’re challenging the technology to grow along with us. This is important, because in the hopefully not too distant future, we want to offer customers the use of autonomous shuttles that can cover their first or last miles as an on-demand service. The pilot test as part of “Shuttles&Co” is a further step on our journey to that destination.’
Frank Balzer, Mayor of the District of Reinickendorf: ‘I very much welcome the fact that the BVG again chose Reinickendorf to run real-world tests of the next stage in autonomous public transport. Following the SAFARI project, which tested conditions for autonomous driving at traffic lights and road signs, and the highly automated bus on the “See-Meile” route at Tegel harbour, this fascinating project is now being expanded. Reinickendorf looks forward to greeting the future.’
About the vehicles
The new EasyMile vehicles (EZ10 Gen3) could seat six persons. Due to the pandemic, however, the number of passengers was limited to three in the beginning to ensure sufficient distancing on board. Wheelchair users and persons with restricted mobility could access the shuttle via an integrated, electrically extending ramp. The vehicles had one space for wheelchair users or a buggy. They also featured underfloor heating and air-conditioning.
The vehicles ran on a previously measured and learned route. During the journey, the shuttle constantly scanned its surroundings with sensors. If an obstacle was detected, the bus stoped and the attendant took over to bypass it.
About the Shuttles&Co research project
The project, under the auspices of the Senate Department for the Environment, Mobility, Consumer Protection, and Climate Action, was dedicated to researching further basic technologies for the future digitization of traffic. The project investigated how automated and networked vehicles can better recognize their surroundings, how the exchange of the necessary information can be improved, and how digital maps can be created and continuously updated on this basis. High-precision digital maps from the state of Berlin were used for this purpose. Citizen acceptance of the new technology also plays an important role. The public was involved via a so-called dialog forum. The dialog forum for residents of the Alt-Tegel neighborhood took place on February 25, 2022, at the Seeterrassen at Tegeler Hafen. Together with four experts from technology, science and administration, 20 participants discussed the current shuttle operation, challenges still to be overcome and its social impact.
The results of the project helped the project partners to identify key insights for the future of public transport. So it has for instance been investigated, how highly automated electric shuttles can be usefully and economically integrated into regular public transport services.
The project partners were:
- Senate Department for the Environment, Urban Mobility, Consumer Protection, and Climate Action (SenUMVK)
- Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG)
- Berlin Agency for Electromobility (eMO)
- District of Reinickendorf
- Berlin Fire Department
- German Aerospace Center (DLV), Institute of Transportant Systems
- Fraunhofer FOKUS
- Free University of Berlin – Dahlem Center for Machine Learning and Robotics
- IAV GmbH Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr (part of project consortium until late 2021)
- Technical University of Berlin with
- Daimler Center for Automotive IT Innovations (DCAITI)
- Center for Technology and Society (ZTG), ‘Mobility and Space’ Department
- VMZ Berliner Betreibergesellschaft mbH