The relaxed journey into the city continues: on the outskirts of the city, the driver can switch from a private car to a driverless shuttle with electric drive. The shuttle is already waiting because the time of arrival was determined via data connection. The private vehicle searches for a parking space in driverless mode. Together with other passengers who have a similar destination uptown, the shuttle drives smoothly to the destination in a fast lane.
To develop technologies for this type of shuttle, Continental is using the CUbE (Continental Urban Mobility Experience) development platform. For this purpose, multiple systems, components and software solutions are continuously being developed and integrated into the vehicle – from sensors, control units, software, algorithms and brake systems, through to drive technologies. “The potential market for robo-taxis is huge – they're environmentally friendly, flexible, safe, and therefore suitable for a wide range of transport tasks. These cars represent an opportunity to ensure mobility in big cities in sustainable manner – for everyone," affirms Hohm. Testing is currently underway worldwide, including in Auburn Hills in the U.S., in Yokohama, Japan, and also at Continental company sites in Frankfurt and China.
Although the robo-taxis drive autonomously, a safety operator on board monitors the driving systems – for the time being. Over the coming years, use will initially be concentrated at locations such as large industrial parks, airports, exhibition complexes, amusement parks and pedestrian areas in city centers. In particular smart cities with a connected infrastructure will be predestined for their use. “Because these vehicles are continuously on the road, far fewer parking spaces, public transport stops and access and exit points will be required,” adds Ralph Lauxmann. The areas thus freed-up could be used for playgrounds, wider sidewalks, parks and much-needed living space, for example. Vehicles of this kind can also make a contribution in the countryside – as a kind of shuttle-on-demand (bus-on-call) for senior citizens and people with disabilities who can be taken directly to their destination from shuttle stops or from their own doorstep. This is particularly important in light of the current demographic trends.
The smartphone is taking on the role of an interface with this new form of personal mobility. At the CES in Las Vegas, Continental recently demonstrated how users can conveniently book a shuttle and even reserve a preferred seat using an app. While waiting for their ride, the position of the shuttle can be continuously tracked on the app. Here, smartphone users benefit from a highly connected traffic system.
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