© DB AG / Faruk Hosseini

Autonomous shuttles in public transport

Autonomous, electric-powered vehicles aren't just a futuristic notion for us. We are testing driverless electric buses at two locations in Germany – the town of Bad Birnbach in Bavaria and the city of Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg. Operating autonomously, these vehicles offer a convenient, climate-friendly service as they ferry their passengers from A to B. In Karlsruhe, the shuttle buses even dispense with a set timetable: They are purely "on-demand", which means they arrive when you order them via your smartphone. 

Autonomous minibuses in Karlsruhe

In Karlsruhe, two autonomous and electric shuttles buses offer a transportation service as part of the EVA Shuttle research project. DB's subsidiary ioki developed the platforms and interfaces for this undertaking. Using an intelligent algorithm, the system's app groups passengers who have similar routes as part of a process called "ridepooling". The shuttles' activities are also closely coordinated with regular mass transit services. This way, we use the ioki platform to intelligently integrate the autonomous on-demand shuttles with bus and rail transportation.

A shuttle bus can easily be requested via app.
A shuttle bus can easily be requested via app.

A green connection in Bavaria

We are also trialing driverless buses in the Bavarian town of Bad Birnbach. These buses are electric as well, and, every day, they link the train station with the town's central square, located some 2 km away. When rail passengers arrive in Bad Birnbach, they can leave the train and board an autonomous bus immediately. It's a convenient and comfortable way to complete a journey.

Mit dem autonomen Bus über die Landstraße zum Zug
Green connection from the station to the city with DB´s autonomous bus.

The central role of safety

Ensuring passenger safety is the top priority with all of these autonomous buses. For example, the vehicles use sensors, object detection and self-geolocation so they always know where they should head. Innovative planning algorithms support the system's ability to make decisions when in transit. In addition, the specially trained "safety drivers" on board each bus can intervene in the event of an emergency. They also provide help when passengers with restricted mobility want to get on or off a vehicle.