The autonomously driving electric bus: Current status of our project

Project NAF-Bus of the EurA branch in Schleswig-Holstein

Call the bus with an app on your smartphone - and it comes without a driver sitting at the wheel. After getting off at the desired stop, the electrically powered vehicle automatically searches for a parking location, charges at the next charging station or makes its way to the next passenger. In the future, this vision could be a supplement to local public transport in rural areas, where it is often no longer worthwhile for economic reasons.


NAF Bus is the abbreviation for Demand-driven Autonomous Driving Bus - behind this is the innovative mobility concept "ÖPNV On Demand", which is to be promoted in the NAF Bus project: A public transport system with autonomous buses without fixed routes and timetables, controlled solely by the users - this should no longer remain just an idea in the future. Although the conceived application scenarios for ordering by app cannot yet be fully implemented, important learning processes have been developed by operators and passengers in test operation since the start of the project. At present, these are pre-programmed routes driven by two NAF buses in the project - one operator always on board to be able to intervene if necessary.


The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is funding the project with approx. 2.4 million euros. It is managed by EurA AG, Schleswig-Holstein branch in Enge-Sande. The project originated from the EurA innovation network"Autonomous driving in rural areas" in Schleswig-Holstein. The project includes seven business partners from various areas of infrastructure planning and energy management up to bus operators and the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel as a research institution with three chairs. These chairs examine the main research areas in the project, which shed light on three scenarios: Research into user behaviour, the legal basis and the functional safety of the bus.

The first NAF bus EMil has been running since summer 2018 on the GreenTEC Campus in Enge-Sande, a highly innovative green business park in the district of North Frisia consisting of companies around renewable energies and e-mobility, which has ideal test conditions for autonomous vehicles due to its 130 hectare size and a road network in the non-public area of 17 km length. EurA AG Schleswig-Holstein is also based here. "By networking with partners from industry and research, EurA AG has the know-how and contacts to drive such high-calibre innovation projects forward," says Ralph E. Hirschberg, head of EurA AG in Schleswig-Holstein and NAF Bus project manager. On the GreenTEC Campus, the NAF bus of the EasyMile brand transports both training participants and interested visitors on a daily basis.


The second NAF bus of the Navya brand called AutoNom has been in use in Keitum on Sylt since May 2019 and has already transported over 9,000 tourists and residents and covered more than 3,000 kilometres.


A third NAF bus of the brand HFM (Hanseatische Fahrzeug Manufaktur) within the project is planned for the district of Dithmarschen to transport commuters within the villages of Lunden/Lehe and is currently still in the procurement phase.


With the use of three buses from three different manufacturers and the focus on rural areas in contrast to urban test areas as well as a 2.7 km long public test track on Sylt, this project clearly stands out from others in Germany and is unique in this way. Both buses, which are now in use, have met with an extremely positive response. This is shown by the first results of the passenger survey of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel. With great curiosity and enthusiasm for technology, the passengers look forward to the new means of transport, which many politicians from Schleswig-Holstein have already enjoyed driving. Among other things Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU), Economics Minister Dr. Bernd Buchholz (FDP), Environment Minister Jan Philipp Albrecht (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) and Kiel's Lord Mayor Ulf Kämpfer (SPD) have been given their own picture in a test drive.



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