Moved by the People Mover

On the road with a driverless minibus: Since this summer, the People Mover has been rolling in public transport in Brandenburg. Getting on is very welcome.

The People Mover drives up to 15 km / h fast. Photo: DEKRA

The People Mover drives up to 15 km / h fast. Photo: DEKRA

A normal morning at the station of Wusterhausen/Dosse in Brandenburg. A white minibus  is waiting for the first passengers of the day at the roadside, to take them to the consumer market. The special: The People Mover drives independently. For one year, it will carry passengers free of charge in trial operation.

The interest of the community of 6,000 inhabitants in the Brandenburg district of Ostprignitz-Ruppin is great. Gudrun S.* is also getting into the air-conditioned vehicle today. “The bus drives the route automatically?” she wants to know from a security driver. The driver answers in the affirmative, but points out that he can take over the vehicle if necessary, even if the control of the pre-programmed route runs automatically. The security driver not only pays attention to the maximum number of passengers of six, but also monitors the vehicle during the entire journey. If problems or obstacles arise, he intervenes. For example, if a car parks on the defined routes of the People Mover, the safety driver switches to manual operation and maneuvers the bus around the obstacle.

The test operation is based on expert reports from the experts at the DEKRA Technology Center (DTC) in Klettwitz. “On the one hand, our colleagues drew up the expert opinion for the granting of an individual operating permit for the vehicle. On the other hand, they also travelled the planned route, drove on it and carried out a risk assessment,” explains Steffen Hladik, head of the vehicle department at the DTC.

The second-generation vehicle of the “EasyMile EZ10” type from the French manufacturer Ligier travels through the town at a maximum speed of 15 km/h. “The vehicle is equipped with a “EasyMile EZ10”, which is a new generation of the “EasyMile EZ10”. It takes the passengers confidently to the consumer market and the town centre. For about four kilometers, it runs virtually in line with the regular local public transport system. Gudrun S. sits in the front right-hand corner and is visibly impressed by the mobile alternative on quiet soles.

Checking Special Features for Automated Vehicles

As the bus is travelling on public roads, it had to pass extensive tests and inspections in order to obtain an individual operating permit at all. “The overall aim is to ensure that the vehicle complies with the requirements of the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations – or that the basic principles are in place where special permits are required for automated driving,” says DEKRA expert Hladik.

On 22 July 2019 the trial operation started in Wusterhausen/Dosse. Photo: DEKRAOn the first day of the trial operation Passersby take a look at the minibus. Photo: DEKRAA security driver is always on board. Photo: DEKRAvDEKRA prepared an expert opinion on the autonomous bus for the granting of an individual operating permit. Photo: DEKRA

During the tests, the usual technical vehicle parameters were determined, for example with regard to brakes, steering, lighting equipment or maximum speed. In addition, the special features for automated vehicles were checked. This applies in particular to the additional sensors on the vehicle for automated operation and the requirements for manual control. To this end, extensive behavioral tests were carried out in automated operation with regard to the recognition of other road users and the infrastructure, among other things.

The route was selected as part of a research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport, the client for the expert opinions was the Ostprignitz-Ruppiner Local Public Transport Company (ORP) operated by the district. In addition, the Regional Development Company Northwest Brandenburg and the Technical Universities of Berlin and Dresden are also involved in the research project.

Gudrun S. drove from the station to the supermarket. She leaves the bus with a smile. For the first time she took a driverless bus. She will certainly use the People Mover more often during the one-year trial run.

*Name changed by the editors.

Three questions to Steffen Hladik

Steffen Hladik, Head of the Vehicle Department of the DEKRA Technology Center (DTC) in Klettwitz. Photo: DEKRA

Steffen Hladik, head of the Complete Vehicle Department at the DEKRA Technology Center (DTC) in Klettwitz. Photo: DEKRA

DEKRA solutions: How did the risk assessment of the route proceed?

Steffen Hladik: The risk assessment was carried out by a detailed survey of the route. DEKRA experts drove along the route and recorded it on video. This was followed by a joint risk analysis and safety assessment with the project partners (including TU Dresden). This involves identifying possible risks – for example zebra crossings, traffic lights, intersections or parking lanes. On this basis, the authority has imposed certain conditions for adapting the infrastructure. In addition, the traffic density was assessed in order to agree on any speed limits.

What are the plans for the future?

The line is to be extended in order to open up further areas. In this context, higher speeds are also to be allowed, so that the rather slow people mover does not interfere with flowing traffic.

Are further projects planned?

Soon there will also be a people mover on the road in Berlin Tegel, for which DEKRA has prepared an expert opinion on the granting of an individual operating permit. And in Hamburg the project “Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation” – or “Heat” for short – is also being launched. DEKRA also submitted the registration documents for this driverless bus in July. The bus has received its registration number and will start trial operation in September. A people mover project is also to be launched in Frankfurt am Main in the near future.

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