The Ducktrain is a new innovation from RWTH Aachen University. The Aachen-based company DroidDrive is developing an electrically driven articulated train consisting of trailers that are to swarm out autonomously in the delivery area. A first prototype has now started testing.
The startup describes the Ducktrain as an automated vehicle system with light electric vehicles. The individual cars are designed to transport exactly one euro pallet. DroidDrive came up with the concept for last-mile logistics as well as industrial applications in factories or on closed company premises. The idea is very convincing: The German Federal Ministry of Transport and the German Federal Foundation for the Environment classify the Ducktrain as a project particularly worthy of support.
Up to four of the trailers can be coupled together per train. They automatically follow the deliverer, who can be on foot, by bike or in a vehicle, and swarm out independently in the delivery area. The Ducktrain should take on more functions independently with each stage of development. The startup says they would like to have the Ducktrain built in 2021, start autonomous pilot tests from 2022, and be ready for series production and road operation from 2025.
The first prototype of the Ducktrain is currently being tested by the Aachen newspaper publishing house, City Logistik Aachen and the Competence Center for Sustainable Mobility (Avantis). Other German and international logistics companies are to be added shortly, according to German mobility news site Next Mobility. For the time being, testing can only be carried out in closed areas, since the Ducktrain has not yet been approved as a new vehicle category. The DroidDrive is currently working on this with the Federal Ministry of Transport, several state transport ministries and the German certification agency TÜV.
Dr Kai Kreisköther, CEO of DroidDrive explained the impulse to develop the vehicles: “When we looked for a solution to the massive congestion of the transport infrastructure, it turned out that the available vehicles were not suitable. So we had to develop our own vehicle.”
For the time being, the individual vehicles have a maximum speed of 25 km/h and a payload of 300 kg each. DroidDrive have conceived of the train of light electric vehicles to be capable of the same load volume as a standard delivery van. They describe the Ducktrain as being very manoeuvrable, and extremely flexible since it is designed for use on roads, cycle paths and sidewalks. The one-metre wide cars should be able to pass between bollards and negotiate sharp bends. The fact that the individual cars can drive on the footpath right up to the door of their destinations eliminates the problem of trucks and vans obstructing traffic when they load and unload.
As far as the future business model is concerned, DroidDrive has a kind of booking system in mind: the duck trains themselves won’t be for sale – their services will. The startup wants to make the concept accessible for the broadest possible target groups, catering to different vehicle superstructures.
With additional reporting from Carrie Hampel
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