"Taking public transport to the next level"
Driving force in Barcelona: academia, companies and transport operators presented forward-thinking mobility solutions
TRK Managing Director Jochen Ehlgötz observed: "For TRK, the joint stand under the name Karlsruhe Mobility Lab was an important positioning in the global competition of mobility regions. I am very happy that we had more than 15 partners on board who were able to present more than 20 projects, and had more than 35 delegates at the UITP World Summit. It was important for the Messe Karlsruhe team to take charge of the joint stand in Barcelona and the preparations for the Karlsruhe delegation alongside TRK.”
“In order to really advance mobility, we need networked cooperation between research, the public sector and relevant companies in order to maximise the innovative power of all stakeholders and raise public transport to the next level,” adds Britta Wirtz, Managing Director of Messe Karlsruhe. “We have plenty of that in Karlsruhe, which is also expressed in our excellent trade events such as IT-TRANS."
Karlsruhe scored not only in terms of mobility and technology, but also aesthetics in urban space, which takes high priority in the UNESCO City of Media Arts. In Barcelona, the Karlsruhe public transport company (VBK) won the UITP Design Award for the outstanding lighting concept of its tunnel stops, beating Hong Kong and Vienna in the final.
"We are incredibly proud of this award. It proves that we have done everything right with our very bright, puristic stops which are designed as quiet zones in the big city. They make an important contribution to the appeal of local transport in our region. The UITP highlights the stops as a worldwide model for contemporary public transport," says VBK Managing Director Prof. Dr. Alexander Pischon.
The FZI Research Centre for Information Technology was also present on site. "The highlight for us was the Innovation Guided Tour, where our test field and autonomous FZI shuttle experiences were particularly in demand," says division head Dr Alexander Viehl. "The fact that we achieve an acceptance of autonomous vehicles of more than 90 per cent in our user surveys surprised some people."
A delegation with representatives from the University of Tokyo was also at the stand to get an overview of the integration and communication capabilities of autonomous shuttles at a simulated control station.
One added attraction, especially for software providers, was the Dakimo project of KAMO Karlsruhe Mobility High Performance Center/Profile Region: Apps for calculating the best routes, means of transport and departure times for a journey can be more detailed thanks to expanded data from Dakimo and suitable interfaces. KAMO office manager Matthias Vollat, from KIT, explains: "If weather data is included, a short walk in snowy conditions might be replaced by a bus ride. Or the passenger is informed that a huge soccer match is taking place along the route and therefore an alternative route should be used."
Using empty tram seats for freight transport
The second KAMO research project LogIKTram pursues a different goal: public transport is in many cases a subsidy model. "The travel costs of a full tram are similar to those of an empty one. So what if we could use unoccupied space for freight transport, for example?" asked Dr.-Ing. Michael Frey, from KIT, of the Lab's guests. The trailer from the LogIKTram project, which was exhibited at the joint stand, is perfectly poised to fill this gap. Designed as a motor-driven bicycle trailer, it can be packed with goods in a loading centre outside the city, then travel independently to the designated place in a tram and finally be collected by a bicycle courier in the city centre. This solution is still in a legally undefined area, as the current Passenger Transport Act does not regulate freight transport in trams. "But autonomous driving was also not allowed 40 years ago when the first trials started. However, it is now regulated by law," Frey continues.
Pragmatic state-of-the-art solutions
A daily challenge, especially in urban transport, are bendy buses and those with passenger trailers, which are used at peak times but are unwieldy and consume significantly more energy. KIT presented its solution in Barcelona: So-called platooning is an automated connection of several vehicles to form a convoy, with no need for an articulated joint or drawbar. Instead, at peak times, a second, driver-free bus can simply be coupled purely by information technology and not physically. The system maintains a fixed distance fully automatically and ensures that the second car stays exactly in the lane of the first, driver-operated car. "We assume that our system will be able to be used regularly on routes from 2025," says M.Sc. Nicole Kechler from the Institute for Information Processing Technology at KIT.
At the end of the summit, trade fair director Wirtz took a look into the future: "We are very happy to give Karlsruhe's mobility expertise an international stage - here at the UITP Summit, then also in 2024 at our IT-TRANS trade fair and conference, and beyond."