Autonomous mini buses: First results from a nationwide pilot test

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The first nationwide test with self-driving mini-buses – without specified routes and at the request of customers – showed researchers the first opportunities for improvement. “This includes, for example, increasing the maximum speed of such vehicles as well as better anticipation or prediction of the traffic in order to be able to pass intersections more quickly,” said Prof. J. Marius Zöllner from the FZI Research Center for Information Technology.

For a better driving experience, the safety distance that such a shuttle needs around it has to be smaller. “We applied it very conservatively in the project and then noticed in practice that this leads to more restless driving behavior for the passengers, because more frequent stops are made to be on the safe side.”

From April 22nd to the end of June and on the July weekends the three mini-buses “Ella”, “Vera” and “Anna” were on the road in Karlsruhe at a maximum speed of 20 km. What is special about the local transport model project funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport: In contrast to other shuttle projects in Germany, they did not roll on a specified route, but navigated freely and on demand – from the front door to the tram stop, to the nearest shop or simply for a round tour Quarter.

A spokeswoman for the Karlsruhe transport company announced that a good 1200 passengers had used the offer on 750 trips. Up to 35 people a day. From grandparents who went on an excursion with grandchildren to professors, everything was there. A mother regularly picked up her child from daycare by shuttle.

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A survey revealed that 93 percent felt safe while driving and wanted to use such shuttles again. Driving as required – without a fixed timetable – was rated very positively. Almost three quarters of the participants believed that such vehicles could improve the traffic situation.

(Image: Blue Planet Studio /

Autonomous driving, the effects on the transport of people with robotic taxis, people movers, autonomous buses and the necessary techniques and regulations deal with us in a ten-part series.


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