Centrally controlled robot vehicles to ensure urban mobility

Centrally controlled robot vehicles to ensure urban mobility

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

At its in-house exhibition Tech Summit later this month, engineering services provider EDAG will introduce a further development of its “CityBot” mobility concept, which was originally presented at the IAA 2019. The robot vehicle, which is controlled with AI algorithms, represents various innovations from the fields of autonomous driving, robotics and trajectory planning. As a variable platform solution, the CityBot family is intended to enable numerous application variants in the field of urban mobility. The focus is not only on passenger transport, but also on autonomous work assignments, for example in the field of waste disposal or intralogistics, by means of various application-specific modules. For the CityBot concept to work, it is important that the vehicles travel in a defined spatial area that is closed to manually controlled cars, for example in company campuses, at airports or in city centres.

The vehicles find their way around in this area by means of lidar sensors. For near-field detection, these are supplemented with ultrasonic sensors. The signals from these sensors are then linked to each other using a fusion engine developed in-house. The result is a digital, overlapping 360° image of the real environmental situation. In addition, the merged environmental data are compared with the position data received via GNSS and existing digital maps. From this information, the CityBots calculate their respective trajectories using a software-implemented Vehicle Control Unit (VCU). This trajectory planning goes beyond the possibilities of classic navigation systems, as it takes into account the individual route and reacts to dynamic situations with suitable evasive manoeuvres, EDAG advertises. In addition, the CityBot is not designed as a closed island system, but receives further merged data from other bots or stationary sensors of the infrastructure. This means that the EDAG CityBot is also able to look “around the corner”. The vehicles are driven by wheel hub motors.

A CityBot, configured as a refuse collection vehicle. Not only can it detect and collect waste, it can also categorise it and place it in an appropriate on-board container.  

The CityBot software suite includes a payment system with the crypto-currency IOTA, because the developers have envisaged that users can monetize the activity of the robot vehicles by offering their services in return for payment. Since they are designed to operate around the clock, this would not only pay for itself, but would also enable a high level of traffic efficiency – in contrast to private cars, which are usually only used for a few hours a day.

In those areas where the CityBots can be used, EDAG engineers expect a drastic reduction in the number of vehicles in circulation to about 20% of the “conventional” stock. At the same time, the number of parking spaces could be reduced, advertises EDAG CEO Cosimo de Carlo. This would make these areas available for a different type of use; in addition, there would no longer be any need for traffic signs, traffic lights or for the elaborate design of intersections. Thanks to their central software control, traffic jams could even be avoided, EDAG hopes. With all these features, EDAG believes that the CityBots could be a building block for the conversion to decarbonised and environmentally friendly urban mobility.

EDAG expects the first commercial uses to begin around 2025 – initially in airports and industrial sites. A city centre scenario is conceivable for de Carlo in about ten years.

At its Tech Summit between 26 October and 5 November, EDAG intends to present the concept in more detail in various webinars and live streams. 

All photos © EDAG Group

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