Forward-looking emoin project clocks up mileage in Bergedorf
Autonomous driving is definitely becoming a reality, according to experts at the HEY/HAMBURG mobility festival last June. More than 1,000 passengers travelled aboard the emoin autonomous e-shuttles last October in Bergedorf. Launched by the Reallabor Hamburg, the trials gauged the extent to which an on-demand shuttle service could close gaps in the "first and last mile". The combination of autonomous driving and on-demand service makes the the research project unique. Passengers booked the shuttles using a mobile phone app and did not have to keep to a fixed timetable or route. The test route through Bergedorf included over 50 stops in the direction of the B S-Bahn station. Demand for the three zero-emission vehicles was particularly high between 2 and 3 p.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. All passengers spoke of pleasant, safe and comfortable journeys.
After evaluating the data, Patrick Fischer, Project Manager and Head of the Verkehrsbetriebe Hamburg-Holstein (VHH) GmbH’s depots in Billbrook and Glinde, said: "As far as we can tell, our project is the only one in the world that serves a bus route and an entire residential district with on-demand transport. The service met with great enthusiasm among the people of Bergedorf and regular passengers have been gained. They include elderly passengers who were glad to be taken comfortably from their homes to the doctor or the theatre." Professionals have also welcomed the emoin project, which was designed as a trial of a real-life application at the ITS World Congress. "It allowed us to take something that was conceived on the drawing board and run it live and to identify the practical requirements of running an autonomous shuttle service for VHH and others." VHH’s partners include Continental AG, EasyMile GmbH, the German Aerospace Centre and DEKRA Automobil GmbH.
Parking violations, delivery services and stormy weather
Test operations proved demanding even though special parking bans in one-way streets had been set up in Bergedorf's business estate especially for the project. Challenges included hills, parking violations, delivery services and stormy weather. "In fact, we had to suspend operations for two days because winds of over 50km/h were forecast," Fischer said. The sensor technology, developed by Continental, recognises people, animals, wind-whipped branches as potential obstacles, which could lead to emergency braking or force the driver to intervene. However, under the current legislation the shuttles are not yet driverless. A VHH escort was always on board although they had "little work", said Fischer. Not a single emergency occurred on the 1,325 kilometres travelled.
Ready for follow-up project
VHH is now gearing up for follow-on projects after the success of emoin. The acronym emoin (Mobility-on-Demand in the North) was derived from the elexity brand under which VHH pools all aspects of e-mobility. "VHH would like to help the City of Hamburg achieve its mobility and climate goals." Fischer is now eyeing a follow-up project with larger vehicles and even more passengers.