German rail operator to get driverless cars

By GovInsider

Deutsche Bahn wants to solve the problem of the 'last mile'.

Germany’s government-owned rail company has announced plans to run driverless cars and solve the problem of the 'last mile'.

Deutsche Bahn CEO, Rüdiger Grube, announced the move in an interview with German magazine Wirtschafts Woche. The company “will, with certainty, operate fleets with driverless cars in the future”, he said (translated from German).

The driverless cars would shuttle passengers between their homes and train stations, media have reported. Commuters would be able to order the cars on-demand via an app. The company is also looking at automated trains.

“Trains could then be controlled from the operations center in one or two decades,” Grube said.

Germany’s vision sets out a unified approach to driverless public transport. Autonomous trains and cars would be part of an “integrated land transport system”, the Deutsche Bahn technology strategy says.

This would give the public transport system flexibility to respond to changing demands. For instance, if there is a breakdown in trains, data analytics can be used to reroute traffic across different modes, the report says.

“Customers are informed about alternatives and routes that meet their specific requirements and are rebooked and rerouted, in some cases without ever feeling the effects of the incident.”

Germany’s plan is similar to the one Singapore is already implementing, where train operator SMRT has partnered with a Dutch company. Both countries are looking at driverless vehicles as part of their public transport to close the last-mile gap between homes and train stations.

The city-state will trial 24-seater driverless pods by the end of the year, it announced last month. The pods cannot yet handle public roads, and will be implemented in a “semi-controlled environment”.

“What we’re looking at is autonomous minibusses, autonomous vehicles that close that final gap [between homes and train stations], which will be available on demand,”

Smart Nation Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has previously said. Singapore is currently ahead of Germany in driverless trains, however. The island’s North East Line is the world’s first driverless underground railway, according to the Land Transport Authority.