Autonomous shuttle links to German public transport

  • July 5, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson
From the left: VDV general manager Oliver Wolff, DB Regio CEO Jörg Sandvoß, VDV president Ingo Wortmann, Mobileye vice president Johann Jungwirth, and André Kavai, RMV managing director.

An autonomous shuttle-service is due to start next year in the Rhine-Main area of Germany.

At the annual conference last month of the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV), Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) presented their plans for what they say will be the world’s first autonomous shuttle fleet in public transport.

DB subsidiary Ioki and Intel subsidiary Mobileye are providing the software for the autonomous ride-pooling service

The vehicles in autonomous level-four will travel in Darmstadt and the Offenbach district from 2023 and be completely integrated into regular public transport operations.

“For many decades, the industry has had extensive and good experience with so-called scheduled services such as dial-a-bus and so on,” said Ingo Wortmann, VDV president. “For several years now, more and more new on-demand offers have been added to public transport, also thanks to digitisation and the improved legal framework for this type of transport.”

Ioki, a specialist for on-demand mobility in the Dach region, provided the intelligent software and thus the core of the autonomous on-demand transport service. A specially developed interface (API) enables the smooth integration of the software of the autonomous vehicles with the Ioki on-demand platform.

Ioki specialises in connecting driver-based and autonomous fleets of different providers to its mobility platform. Mobileye will contribute the vehicle software for the project and is thus the third provider to be integrated into the Ioki platform after Navya and Easy Mile.

“The future of mobility with self-driving vehicles contributes to more safety, sustainability and customer satisfaction in road traffic,” said Johann Jungwirth, vice president at Mobileye. “We look forward to working with Deutsche Bahn and RMV to explore the benefits of vehicles.”

CleverShuttle, also a DB subsidiary, will be in charge of the local operation together with local partners Heag Mobilo and KvgOf.

“Ioki and the Rhine-Main region are once again pioneers for on-demand mobility in Germany,” said Michael Barillère-Scholz, CEO of Ioki. “Completely integrated into the public transport system, on-demand autonomous shuttles make a decisive contribution to climate protection and a nationwide public transport system of the future.”

For passengers in the service areas, it means more flexible mobility with less traffic: passengers can continue to book the shuttles with or without drivers via the central RMV on-demand app. The flexible and digital service is already in use in the Offenbach district, in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Taunusstein, Limburg and Hofheim.

In the coming months, further service areas will follow in the districts of Groß-Gerau, Darmstadt-Dieburg and Hanau. Up to 1.8 million people in the region could benefit from the service.

Ioki has established itself as a pioneer in the field of autonomous driving and has set milestones for the German market, from test operations on closed terrain to the first autonomous vehicle in road-bound public transport and the first linking of an on-demand booking system with autonomously driving vehicles.

Since 2017, companies, cities and municipalities have used Ioki to optimise and digitalise transport. Ioki develops systems that are integrated into the existing public transport system, detailed mobility analyses for a data-based and demand-oriented offer, as well as user-friendly platforms. More than 120 employees from over 20 nations work from the headquarters in Frankfurt to connect people and help shape the future of public transport.