©Elvira Eberhardt / Uni Ulm

The future on the road is said to belong to fully automated, modular vehicles ranging from private cars to shuttles and delivery vans. A prototype of such a delivery van, autoCARGO, arrived at the University of Ulm in Germany a few days ago where it is being upgraded for automation at the Institute for Measurement, Control and Microtechnology (MRM). Sensor modules are being installed and it is being equipped with computers. The first test runs will follow later.

In a few years, it should then be able to move without a driver in the “challenging urban environment” alongside cars, pedestrians and cyclists. That’s why Ulm University engineers are primarily focusing on the vehicle’s environmental detection and “understanding” the traffic situation. “Of course, the automation concept also includes safety precautions,” explains Dr. Michael Buchholz of the MRM, who is coordinating the vehicle automation work in the research project. “We have to ensure that the car stops in case of malfunctioning or unexpected situations and that it interacts with the monitoring control room.”

“Continuous self-monitoring of all components”

In addition to autoCARGO, the project partners are also researching three other new concepts for automated vehicles of the future as part of the UNICARagil lighthouse project. autoTAXI is geared toward cab services, autoSHUTTLE is intended to be a city minibus to get people from A to B, and autoELF is designed for the individual mobility sector.

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    The UNICARagil project partners are working on driving functions, safety components, energy management and automation simultaneously for all four prototypes. “The innovation lies in the modular system concept with continuous self-monitoring of all components,” says Professor Klaus Dietmayer, head of the Institute of Measurement, Control and Microtechnology. “The concept is fully redundant: as a result, any failures of individual components during operation are not only detected but also compensated for with full or only slightly limited continued functionality.”

    All four UNICARagil vehicle concepts are scheduled to be officially launched in 2023.

    UNICARagil is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 26 million euros. Under the leadership of RWTH Aachen, the following institutions are involved: Technical University (TU) Braunschweig, TU Darmstadt, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), TU Munich, University of Passau, University of Stuttgart and University of Ulm, as well as the following industrial partners: ATLATEC GmbH, flyXdrive GmbH, iMAR Navigation GmbH, IPG Automotive GmbH, Schaeffler Technologies AG & Co. KG, VIRES Simulationstechnologie GmbH, Maxion Wheels Germany Holding GmbH and Valeo Schalter und Sensoren GmbH.

    Cover photo: The autoCARGO rolls off the truck (Photo: Elvira Eberhardt / Uni Ulm).

    Also of interest:
    Construction kit for transport wagons: a modular company e-vehicle with a shared-service option.
    Modular concepts: Autonomous driving to become flexible
    (German only)
    The Car That Cares: Digital Health Assistant Calls for Help for Drivers
    Developing autonomous vehicles with technologies from the gaming industry

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Petra Wiesmayer is a journalist and author who has conducted countless interviews with high-profile individuals and researched and written general entertainment, motorsports, and science articles for international publications. She is fascinated by technology that could shape the future of mankind and enjoys reading and writing about it.As an avid science fiction fan she is fascinated by technology that could shape the future of mankind and enjoys reading and writing about it.