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Schaeffler and VDL Groep are jointly exploring developing and producing a new generation of self-driving electric shuttles for public transport. The two family-owned companies will demonstrate the vehicle for the first time at the IAA Mobility next week in Munich. The vehicle prototype, which features Mobileye’s autonomous driving technology, will be on the VDL Groep and Schaeffler stands.

  • VDL and Schaeffler are presenting a self-driving shuttle bus.
  • The first test drives are planned for 2025.

The initiators want to combine their technological competencies and expertise in systems engineering, development, production, and public transport. The two partners are working with Mobileye, which will supply the autonomous driving systems of the shuttle vehicles. VDL and Schaeffler’s negotiations with public transport companies on pilot projects are at an advanced stage, the two companies said in a press statement. According to plans, the vehicles could be tested on the streets starting in 2025.

In many metropolitan areas, the mobility offer is being supplemented by alternative transport concepts that are sustainable and accessible. Public transport companies are increasingly looking at autonomous driving solutions to handle larger traffic volumes, also due to a lack of drivers. Especially during off-peak hours, larger vehicles can be gradually replaced by smaller, self-driving vehicles that are available on-demand and offer a solution for local public transport that is emission-free and low-noise.

The system with self-driving shuttles, which consumers can summon via an app, will bring about major changes for public transport, VDL and Schaeffler expect.

Pioneering and innovating

VDL Groep President Willem van der Leegte thinks autonomous shuttle vehicles will play an important role in our future mobility needs. “This vehicle concept fits into our broad mobility proposition, including design, electrification, connectivity, autonomous driving, and services.”

Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG, sees self-driving shuttle vehicles as an integral part of modern mobility ecosystems. “They will be able to transport more passengers safely, quickly, and conveniently and increase the accessibility of mobility for both city dwellers and people in outlying areas. We at Schaeffler want to support this development sustainably with the best system engineering and innovative technology for the automotive sector.”

Level 4: Autonomous without a driver

Schaeffler has introduced a so-called “rolling chassis,” which combines a fully electric powertrain, steer-by-wire system, and battery in a modular solution. Designed for shuttle vehicles, Mobileye’s platform enables autonomous driving through purpose-built EyeQ processors, sensor systems from surround cameras, lidar/radar detection, and mapping solutions. The newly developed and manufactured shuttles will start operating in Germany, the first country in Europe where SAE Level 4 self-driving autonomous vehicles are allowed to be used on public roads.

The partners expect that several thousand vehicles per year will be produced starting in 2030. Production of the vehicles will take place at VDL’s Mobility Innovation Center in Born.

Specifications of Schaeffler and VDL’s autonomous shuttle:

  • 9 seats: 6 fixed and 3 flexible.
  • Payload capacity of about 1,000 kg.
  • Dimensions: 5 meters long, 2.2 meters wide, 2.8 meters high, weight max. 5,000 kg.
  • Indoor monitoring system in direct contact with the control room.
  • Two integrated, independent detection systems: one with a camera and one with radar (detection with radio waves) and lidar (detection with laser light).
  • Large doors and low entry.
  • Wheelchair accessible.
  • Maximum speed: 70 km/hour.
  • Range: over 350 km per day and 100 km on one battery charge.