What’s happening: Deutsche Bahn, Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), and local partners HEAG mobilo and Kreisverkehrgesellschaft Offenbach (kvgOF) are launching a pilot program in May to test automated shuttles in Darmstadt and the district of Offenbach for local public transport. The shuttles will eventually operate without a driver at normal speeds in regular traffic. The project is made possible by the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV), which has provided funding for the two-year test and implementation phase.
Why it matters: The program aims to address the economic limitations of providing public transport in rural areas with low demand and a projected shortage of bus drivers in Germany by 2030. Autonomous shuttles that can be called upon as needed could revolutionize local public transport, particularly in rural areas. The goal is to make local public transport more convenient and flexible while contributing to climate protection.
- The autonomous shuttles will be tested for two years in Darmstadt and the district of Offenbach.
- The shuttles will operate without a driver at normal speeds in regular traffic.
- The shuttles will first be tested with specially trained drivers and without passengers, then with test customers before being integrated into the existing on-demand services.
- The program is part of a larger on-demand network initiative led by Deutsche Bahn and RMV, which currently serves nine cities and districts with more than 100 vehicles.
- The project involves several partners, including Deutsche Bahn, RMV, HEAG mobilo, kvgOF, DB subsidiary CleverShuttle, and DB subsidiary ioki.
- The autonomous driving system is supplied by project partner Mobileye, with funding from the BMDV for accompanying research from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV).
Bottom line: Deutsche Bahn and its partners are launching a pilot program to test automated shuttles for local public transport in Darmstadt and the district of Offenbach. The program aims to revolutionize local public transport in rural areas, which face economic limitations and a projected shortage of bus drivers. The autonomous shuttles could provide more convenient and flexible transport options while contributing to climate protection. The project involves several partners, with funding from the BMDV and accompanying research from leading German institutions.