The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) has awarded a consortium of experts in the field of autonomous driving €8.9 million (£7.8 million) for the SAFESTREAM project.
The consortium partners are investing an additional €6.9 million euros in the project, which aims to advance the operation of driverless public transportation in the country to SAE Level 4. which means it does not have a human supervisor on board.
The project involves EasyMile as consortium leader and autonomous shuttle provider, and partners T-Systems for Deutsche Telekom, TÜV Rheinland, P3, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), and the District of Kelheim and Bahnen der Stadt Monheim.
The project builds on the already highly automated operation of shuttle buses in the public transport systems of Kelheim and Monheim am Rhein. It is a crucial step in proving the success of Level 4 public transport operations in Germany, as the popularity and use of autonomous public transport is gaining momentum in the country. Germany finalized its legal framework for autonomous driving earlier this year and SAFESTREAM will build on this new legislation.
The goal of the project is to replace the currently required safety attendant in the vehicles in Kelheim and Monheim am Rhein with a technical supervisor not physically present in the vehicle, in compliance with the law. This must be demonstrated in the operation of the shuttle service.
The Consortium says physically removing a safety attendant from an autonomous passenger vehicle presupposes that the same level of safety is maintained for other vehicles and road users, and offers benefits such as increased flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and scalability of the service.
To achieve the project objectives, the role of a Technical Supervisor will be defined and implemented in line with the requirements of the AFGBV (Autonomous Vehicles Licensing and Operation Ordinance). The results and challenges will be summarized in a guideline to help further cities and municipalities in Germany to accelerate the cost-effective introduction of autonomous mobility solutions in public spaces.
The SAFESTREAM consortium started working together in August this year. Initial tests on public roads in Kelheim and Monheim am Rhein are planned for 2024. In the meantime, the necessary systems and software solutions will be developed, evaluated and tested. This aims to ensure the commissioning of an overall system based on the AFGBV that is safe for road traffic and all road users.
The consortium adds that actions will create a basis for scalable fleet solutions by 2025 that will lead to a substantial improvement in public transport through significantly more attractive, more accessible and more efficiently controllable mobility services. This includes both technical and organisational concepts (vehicle, software, technical supervision), economic assessments (changed mobility profile, improved land use in cities, avoidance of oversized transport solutions) and scientific findings (mobility behaviour, safety of autonomous systems in road traffic, improved vehicle concepts).