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The E-Shuttle Drives Itself

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Tags: ZeroAccidents, AutonomousDriving, Emobility, Connectivity
Autonomous electric shuttles will play a key role in the public transport system of the future. After more than two decades of experience, ZF has acquired unique knowledge in this segment.
Andreas Neemann, April 20, 2021
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Andreas Neemann wrote his first ZF text in 2001 about 6HP transmissions. Since then, the automotive writer has filled many publications for internal and external readers, showcasing his passion for the Group's more complex subjects.
What do Singapore, New York, and Abu Dhabi have in common? That's correct, they are among the roughly 55 cities around the world that have at least one autonomous shuttle bus line already operating. For more than two decades, ZF subsidiary 2getthere's self-driving shuttles have also been on the road in closed areas. These include, for example, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport or the Rivium Business Park in the Dutch city of Capelle aan den IJssel, near Rotterdam.

All over the world, futuristic-looking minibuses transport their occupants from A to B. Electrically powered and without a driver, they travel quietly and locally emission-free from stop to stop. Each of these shuttles can transport up to 22 people. This puts them above taxis in the transport category. The latest GRT 3 (3rd generation Group Rapid Transit) minibus from 2getthere can accommodate 22 people.
E-shuttles like the 2getthere GRT 3 for 22 passenger help reduce individual traffic in inner-city areas.

E-shuttles: clean, safe and traffic-free on the road

E-shuttles: clean, safe and traffic-free on the road
"Shuttles that are electrically powered and drive autonomously are an important part of the public transport system of the future," says Jochen Benz of ZF Mobility Solutions. "In rural areas," he explains, "they contribute to better accessibility, while in inner-city areas they help reduce individual traffic thanks to their smaller vessel size and the resulting faster timing of routes."
The potential of the use of autonomous e-shuttles was determined by the Boston Consulting Group and the University of St. Gallen. And according to the study, autonomous shuttles for up to 22 people would have the greatest effect in narrow megacities such as New York or Shanghai. According to the study authors, it is precisely these cities that are facing traffic collapse. Shuttle usage could free up space otherwise occupied by parking in New York, equivalent to six times the size of Central Park.
"Electric shuttles are an important component of future public transportation."
— Jochen Benz, ZF Mobility Solutions

Millions of test kilometers prove the GRT shuttle's suitability for everyday use.

Millions of test kilometers prove the GRT shuttle's suitability for everyday use.
With its projects already underway, 2getthere is on track to tap into this potential. As of today, all shuttles of the ZF subsidiary have covered around 100 million kilometers worldwide. They have brought more than 14 million passengers to their destination, emission free and driverless. 2getthere has been installing self-propelled transport solutions since 1984. In 1997, 2getthere's autonomous systems were the first in the world to eliminate the need for safety drivers. The shuttles have been whirring in the Rivium Business Park since 1999. Initially, three buses, each with room for ten passengers, traveled the then 1.2 kilometer route. Since 2019, six shuttles of the latest, third generation (GRT 3) have been operating on the now 1.8 kilometer route. In each vehicle, one battery charge is sufficient for at least 28 trips.

Challenge: Autonomous e-shuttles in mixed traffic

Challenge: Autonomous e-shuttles in mixed traffic
The shuttles are of particular interest for line operation, especially in cities plagued by noise and exhaust gases. The latest RABus project shows where the journey is headed. Behind the acronym RABus is the "Reallabor für den Automatisierten Busbetrieb im ÖPNV in der Stadt und auf dem Land" (Real Laboratory for Automated Bus Operation in Public Transport in Cities and Rural Areas), a project funded by the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The GRT 3 shuttles from 2getthere, which are currently equipped with an 85 kW electric central drive, will also catch up with conventional buses in terms of speed for the first time: The target is at least 40 kilometers per hour inside cities and at least 60 km/h outside them – all while driving autonomously. This increase in speed shortens waiting times and thus also increases acceptance among users. The first lines are scheduled to start in the Baden-Württemberg cities of Friedrichshafen and Mannheim by the end of 2022/2023. Even very demanding transport companies should be satisfied with the charging times of the new vehicles. After starting the charging process with 30 percent of its battery power, the shuttle will have achieved 80 percent in just eleven minutes. For comparison: The batteries of other providers are only half-full in the same time. The speed advantage of the GRT 3 shuttles during charging is a plus during intermediate charging at stops. On the one hand, this ensures more free spaces at the charging stations in the vehicle depots, while on the other hand increasing the operational readiness of the fast electric shuttles.
Electrically and autonomously on the move: e-shuttles will soon start test operations in the German cities of Mannheim and Friedrichshafen.

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