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TÜV SÜD paves the way for the first autonomous bus in public transport

A team of TÜV SÜD experts have developed the first safety concept for the approval of an autonomous passenger bus, paving the way for its operation in public transport. With effect from today, Germany's rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, will use the bus in Bad Birnbach, a spa in Lower Bavaria, Germany. The shuttle will initially transport up to six passengers on a defined route over a distance of around 700m. Still required by law, and thus always on board, is a human “operator” who can override the autonomous system in the case of an emergency. The expert report provided by TÜV SÜD's experts is bringing this mobility innovation on the road, thereby making the experience available to the general public and pioneering the further realisation of automated driving.

TÜV SÜD paves the way for the first autonomous bus in public transportA journey of around 700 m (which will be extended to over 2 kilometres in 2018 when the route connects to the railway station), a speed of 15 kilometres per hour, six passengers, fully electric and fully automated – these are the key technical data of the first autonomous passenger bus now approved for road traffic in Germany. The EasyMile EZ10 will be used by Deutsche Bahn (Regionalbus Ostbayern GmbH) from 25 October onwards on a route in Bad Birnbach, a spa in Lower Bavaria, Germany. The fully automated bus will transport spa guests from the spa centre to the city centre, driving on a defined route in public road traffic. As required by law, a driver will still be on board. In case of an emergency, this specially trained service operator can override the autonomous system using a remote control. Apart from emergencies, however, sophisticated systems which monitor the surroundings and provide route guidance will ensure that road users and passengers are safe at all times.

A team of ten TÜV SÜD experts spent more than six months working on the special approval according to Art. 70 (1) of the German Road Traffic Licensing Regulation (StVZO) for the minibus, which resembles a mountain cable car. Robert Matawa, Head of Test Department Autonomous Driving at TÜV SÜD Auto Service GmbH says, “The first autonomous bus in public transport demonstrates to the public that the technology is working. The bus fully complies with all legal requirements for functional and operational safety. Its approval marks a milestone in making this innovative technology part of the mobility of the future.”

 

As safe as a rail vehicle

As an important prerequisite for approval of the bus for road traffic, the vehicle must travel on a strictly defined route monitored by GPS. Radar and lidar systems, ultrasound detectors and laser scanners are used to monitor the environs and direct vicinity and keep the vehicle on track, ensuring safe travel for the spa guest shuttle. In line with the requirements for single-vehicle national approval set forth in Art. 21 StVZO TÜV SÜD's experts inspected the vehicle for functional and operational safety and tested it to ensure its electrical safety and electromagnetic compatibility. Philip Puls, Head of the Technical Test Centre for Motor Vehicles at TÜV SÜD says, “The inspection and development of the safety concept was a new technical milestone, as well as a new challenge for our team. We are therefore very happy that the vehicle now fulfils all requirements and can be operated on its route in Bad Birnbach.”

Not without driver

One of the main criteria is, of course, that the autonomous vehicle must not pose a risk to anybody – including the passengers. Given this, expert reports were prepared for the brakes and steering system too. Forward travel: The bus will stop immediately as soon as an obstacle appears along the bus's route, or when a person, animal or object approaches the sensors' speed-dependent field of vision. To do so, the EasyMile EZ10 comes with three independent and redundant braking systems, two of them electrical and one mechanical. Matawa explains, “The average stopping distance of the vehicle – which has a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of 2,800 kilograms – from its top speed of 15 kilometres per hour is just under three metres.”

Lateral travel: For the steering system, the experts likewise rely on a twofold safety system, with additional hardware and software components that ensure redundant safety in the fully electric steering system.

Vienna: The need for a driver for the shuttle in Bad Birnbach goes back to the United Nations' Vienna Convention on Road Traffic of 1968, which states that drivers need to be in control of their vehicles at all time. Philip Puls says, “When we look at the technical possibilities of the Birnbach bus on the one hand and the Vienna Convention on the other, we can see how far some of our legal provisions are lagging behind technological progress. By realising this concept in public transport, we have taken a big step forward, pointing the way towards automated mobility.”

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