German automotive supplier Schaeffler and Dutch conglomerate VDL Groep have announced plans to jointly develop and manufacture a new generation of driverless electric shuttles for public transportation. The collaborative effort will debut with the presentation of a demonstrator vehicle at the upcoming IAA Mobility event in Munich.
The partnership leverages the extensive technical expertise of both companies, encompassing automotive engineering, systems development, vehicle manufacturing, and public transport operations. Notably, the autonomous driving system for Level 4 automation, along with the essential sensor technology, will be provided by Mobileye, a renowned leader in autonomous vehicle technology.
Technical specifications for these cutting-edge shuttles reveal an impressive maximum speed of 70 kilometers per hour and an estimated range exceeding 100 kilometers on a single battery charge. What's more, these vehicles are poised to cover over 350 kilometers per day, hinting at rapid charging capabilities. With a seating capacity of nine passengers, including six fixed seats and three flexible arrangements, the shuttle can accommodate a payload of approximately 1,000 kilograms. The vehicle dimensions measure five meters in length, 2.2 meters in width, and 2.8 meters in height, with a total weight of around 5,000 kilograms.
Schaeffler and VDL are already engaged in discussions with mass transit and operator companies to launch initial pilot projects in public road transport, with an anticipated start date in 2025. Notably, the partners have their sights set on achieving full Level 4 autonomous capabilities, a goal well-aligned with the capabilities of the Mobileye Drive platform, which integrates purpose-built EyeQ processors, redundant sensor systems with surround cameras, lidar/radar sensing, and mapping solutions.
Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG, emphasized the transformative potential of self-driving shuttle vehicles, stating, “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.” This vision aligns with Schaeffler's commitment to supporting this development with top-tier systems engineering and innovative automotive technology in a sustainable manner.
Willem van der Leegte, President and CEO of VDL Groep, underscored the significance of autonomous shuttles in future mobility solutions, stating, “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.”
Given Germany's distinction as the first European country to approve SAE Level 4 for use on public roads, Schaeffler and VDL have chosen it as the initial launch market for their newly developed and manufactured shuttles, signaling a significant milestone in the evolution of autonomous transportation.