Researchers test platooning for more flexible public transport
With platooning, only the vehicle in front needs to be controlled by a driver; all those following can follow automatically. The units of the formation are not connected physically, but only information-technically – via a radio bridge with an extremely short reaction time. The electronic connection can be easily disconnected and platoons thus easily divided and reconnected. This would enable providers of transport services to optimally adapt bus operations to demand depending on the time of day or route – especially in urban and suburban environments.
KIT has now started a corresponding research and evaluation programme together with the municipal transport operators of the city of Munich. The transport companies plan to replace all diesel buses with electrically powered vehicles in the long term. In order to react to fluctuations in demand in public transport on different days or at different times of the day, passenger trailers have been used here so far. “If the towing vehicles were electrified, enormous amounts of electrical energy would have to be used to move the trailers along,” states Professor Eric Sax, head of the Institute for Information Processing Technology (ITIV) at KIT. Additionally motorising the trailer is neither cost- nor energy-efficient. On the other hand, a purely electronic and information-technological coupling, as in platooning, allows complete vehicles to be coupled. “Since common vehicle types are used in this process, electrification is easier and cheaper,” says the expert.
“We are now developing the concepts for platooning city buses and then the corresponding algorithms for automation,” says Nicole Rossel from ITIV. These will then be used in a bus prototype that the KIT researchers will realise together with the Munich public transport company (SWM) and the Dutch electric bus manufacturer EBUSCO by mid-2022. This will then be tested on the new test field for electrified and automated vehicles in local public transport in the Bavarian capital. The aim is to put the new vehicles on the road from the middle of the decade.
The TEMPUS project “Test Field Munich – Pilot Test Urban Automated Road Transport” with, among others, the project partners KIT, SWM and EBUSCO started at the beginning of 2021 and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport (BMVI) with around 12 million euros for the duration of two and a half years. For the realistic testing of automated and connected vehicles in real traffic situations, the participants want to set up an urban test field for automated and connected vehicles in Munich.
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