Next stop: Driverless

The TaBuLa-LOGplus project is working on transport robots that can autonomously navigate in road traffic and are interconnected with other vehicles. For this purpose, it is developing a smart control center.

Germany aims to be at the forefront of autonomous driving. In 2021, the federal government took the first step by passing a new law. Germany became the first country worldwide to permit vehicles without drivers on board to participate in public road traffic. The regulation applies nationwide, albeit initially in defined areas and under technical supervision. Researchers at the Technical University of Hamburg paved the way for the future of mobility three years before the law changed. How they successfully introduced automated public transportation in the small town of Lauenburg/Elbe was previously reported in the spektrum issue of 02/2019.

During the approximately two-year testing phase, the electrically operated minibus, TaBuLa-Shuttle, covered nearly 7,500 kilometers and transported over 4,500 passengers to their destinations. A very special guest on board was the small transport robot, Laura. In the subsequent project, TaBuLa-LOG, automated passenger and freight transport were combined. On four wheels, Laura delivered the city's official mail for half a year, moving a total of 180 kilograms. In shared traffic, the robot used the minibus just like its human passengers. Upon reaching their stop, Laura covered the remaining meters alone, well, almost.

"Both the bus and the robot had to be accompanied on-site and around the clock by a person. This had legal as well as safety-related reasons, but it affected the economic viability," says transportation researcher Sandra Tjaden from the Institute for Transport Planning and Logistics. In collaboration with the Institute for Technical Logistics and industry partners, the project is now set to enter its third phase: "The new law allows us to further advance our developments. In the TaBuLa-LOGplus project, the bus and transport robot are intended to become more autonomous, and the transportation and traffic modes will be even more interconnected. This is aimed at enhancing economic, social, and ecological aspects," explains Tjaden regarding the joint endeavor. The project team hopes for a solution through a smart control center.

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