MVG and partners in Project MINGA develop automated vehicles for public transportation
Research focus: Intelligent Transportation Systems and Logistics
Together, the partners in the MINGA funding project have set themselves the goal of further developing local public transportation. In the project period of 34 months until the end of 2025, the focus is on the automation of on-demand vehicles and buses. The research project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) with around 13 million euros as part of the funding guideline “Autonomous and Connected Driving in Public Traffic”.
Ingo Wortmann, SWM Managing Director Mobility and MVG CEO: “We are proud to be able to drive forward the automation of public transportation as a partner in the MINGA project and to set standards for the industry. In this way, we are making public transit more attractive for our passengers and creating the basis for further automation and flexible new services. Our activities for MINGA are thus also an essential building block for our corporate strategy, with which we will make public transportation in Munich fit for the future. We can thus establish an on-demand service that complements the subway, bus and streetcar in the best possible way. MVG is prepared for this – we have already integrated appropriate workstations for this in our new control center. Another key aspect is a medium-term replacement for our high-capacity, diesel-powered bus trains that are difficult to electrify in this form, so it can operate our bus fleet completely electrically by 2035. This is possible with two virtually connected solo buses known as bus platoons. A third important sub-project involves an automated solo bus that can operate driverless in the future. Overall, MINGA is another important step for us toward the public transport of the future.”
Stadtwerke München (SWM) with Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft (MVG) is a strong partner in the project and spearheading the establishment of an autonomous on-demand ridepooling service and the line operation of two automated bus systems. Teams from research and development, the municipality, and the operating company are working together for a holistic study from planning to permitting and construction to implementation. The operating area where the vehicles will be tested should offer various traffic challenges and be well connected to a depot. By 2024, preparation is planned with the technical setup and clarification of regulatory aspects for the operation of these autonomous services. Trial operation will start in the course of 2025, and approval for passenger use is targeted by the end of the project period.
Automated on-demand transport
Together with the mobility department of the City of Munich and the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary ioki, a technology firm offering software solutions for public transportation, SWM and MVG are setting up a ride pooling system with three to five automated vehicles in on-demand operation. The procurement of the vehicles for automated on-demand operation in mixed traffic will be put out to public tender in the project.
Dr. Michael Barillère-Scholz, co-founder and CEO of ioki: “Autonomous ride pooling is one of the key concepts on the way to a demand-oriented and thus attractive public transport system. In the MINGA project, we will contribute our experience in routing and pooling in mass transit as well as our ioki platform and further develop them in close cooperation with the partners. The findings from the project can make a decisive contribution to sustainably influencing public transportation in Germany.”
The preparation of the operation is planned in several phases. First, there will be a trial operation without passengers with safety drivers, and in the final phase, test runs with passengers under technical supervision are planned in coordination with the licensing authorities.
In addition to technical implementation, the study will also provide data on driving performance and maintenance to optimize processes. In addition, concrete proposals are being developed for the design of technical supervision of autonomous vehicles in local public transport. In this context, a guideline for the industry will also be developed.
Automated buses in regular service
SWM is also working with researchers from the University of Stuttgart, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, as well as the mobility department of the City of Munich, to test various systems for line operation with automated buses. Barrier-free services are also being developed with a view to people with limited mobility.
To automate a solo bus, a 12-meter-long electric bus is being equipped with a Self-Driving System (SDS) in cooperation with the manufacturer MAN Truck & Bus (see MAN announcement dated May 17, 2023). The focus is on ensuring proper and traffic-safe line operation in coordination with the licensing authorities.
Barbaros Oktay, Head of Bus at MAN Truck & Bus: “Sustainability is a central component of MAN’s corporate strategy. That is why, on the one hand, we are systematically converting our products to electric drives. On the other hand, we are driving forward automation and digitization. For us, the MINGA project is an important step on the road to the mobility revolution.”
For the development of two bus platoons, the manufacturer Ebusco is a partner in the project. This involves forming a convoy of two buses connected by a virtual drawbar. The rear bus automatically follows the first vehicle. This makes it possible to offer high-capacity units in bus transportation, which can then also replace diesel-powered bus trains.
Wolfgang Hackauf, Sales Director Germany at Ebusco: “Founded ten years ago with the firm conviction that the future belongs to electric transport, innovation is in our DNA. Already years ago, we delivered our first electric buses to SWM, which are still on the road in the city of Munich today. We are proud to now jointly take the next leap into the future of electric driving as part of the MINGA project. We believe that platooning will be another step towards flexibility, efficiency and cost minimization and look forward to further testing these ‘bus platoons’ on German roads with our innovative and lightweight Ebusco 3.0.”
Partnership in the remaining work packages
SWM and MVG are actively involved in the project in all six work packages. In the four in which they do not have the lead role, SWM and MVG are also involved, among other things, in integrating the on-demand offer for display in MVG’s information media, prioritizing automated buses in road traffic, evaluating the acceptance of autonomous driving offerings, and the scaling of automated public transportation systems.
About the FZI’s focus in the project
Together with its partners Stadtwerke München, Ebusco and KIT, the FZI will co-develop the platooning function for buses. A sensor-equipped bus will be enabled to follow a human-controlled bus. The FZI focuses on the development of algorithms for trajectory planning and control as well as on the test concept for validating the automated driving function of the bus.
About the FZI
The FZI Research Center for Information Technology, with headquarters in Karlsruhe and a branch office in Berlin, is a non-profit institution for information technology application research and technology transfer. It delivers the latest scientific findings in information technology to companies and public institutions and qualifies individuals for academic and business careers or the leap into self-employment. Supervised by professors from various faculties, the research groups at the FZI develop interdisciplinary concepts, software, hardware and system solutions for their clients and implement the solutions found as prototypes. The FZI House of Living Labs provides a unique research environment for application research. The FZI is an innovation partner of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and strategic partner of the German Informatics Society (GI).
Division Manager Communications
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