Schaeffler & VDL to develop autonomous shuttles
The German automotive supplier Schaeffler and the Dutch VDL Groep want to jointly develop and build a new generation of driverless electric shuttles for public transport. The two companies plan to present a demonstrator vehicle at the IAA.
The two companies will present their first concept vehicle as well as the technologies for the electrification and automation of the shuttles at the IAA Mobility in Munich, which begins shortly. For the project, Schaeffler and VDL intend to bring together their technological expertise from the fields of automotive engineering, systems development, vehicle manufacturing and public transport. The driving system for Level 4 automation of the electric shuttles and the associated sensor technology are to come from Mobileye.
In terms of technical specifications, the shuttles will have a maximum speed of 70 kph, and a range of “over 100 km on one battery charge”, but are expected to be able to go over 350 km per day, implying a fast charging capability. The vehicle features nine seats, of which six are fixed, and another three are flexible. The shuttle can carry a payload of around 1,000 kg. At five metres length, the vehicle is 2.2 metres wide, and 2.8 metres high and weighs in with a total weight of around 5,000 kg.
Schaeffler and VDL are already in talks with mass transit and operator companies for initial pilot projects in public road transport, which are expected to be able to start in 2025. As mentioned above, the partners aim for full level 4 autonomous capacities, for which their platform is well-built: “The Mobileye Drive platform designed for shuttle vehicles enables autonomous driving using purpose-built EyeQ processors, redundant sensor systems of surround cameras, and lidar/radar sensing, as well as mapping solutions,” Schaeffler wrote.
“Self-driving shuttle vehicles will become integral elements of modern mobility ecosystems. They will bring people safely, quickly, and easily from A to B and increase accessibility to mobility for everyone living in cities and rural areas,” said Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG, “We at Schaeffler want to support this development with best-in-class systems engineering as well as innovative automotive technology in a sustainable manner.” “Autonomous shuttles are going to play an important role in our future mobility needs. This vehicle concept fits seamlessly into our broad mobility solution covering design, electrification, connectivity, autonomy, and services,” added Willem van der Leegte, President and CEO of VDL Groep.
Due to the fact that Germany is the first country in Europe, which has approved SAE level 4 for use on public roads, the companies chose it as the first country where the newly developed and manufactured shuttles will operate.