Sunday, March 3, 2024

Schaeffler and VDL Groep to develop self-driving electric shuttle

Schaeffler and VDL Groep are jointly exploring the development and production of a new generation of self-driving electric shuttles for public transport.

Germany-based Schaeffler Group offers components and system solutions for both vehicles, including drive trains based on internal combustion engines and hybrid and electric vehicles. Whereas Netherlands-based VDL Groep specializes in developing, producing, and selling semi-finished products, buses and coaches, and other end products.

The two companies showcased a first demonstrator as well as all relevant automotive electrification and steering technology at the IAA Mobility Show in Munich, Germany.

Schaeffler and VDL Groep are collaborating with Israel-based Mobileye to provide shuttle vehicles with autonomous driving systems for SAE level 4.

The Mobileye drive platform designed for shuttle vehicles enables autonomous driving using a purpose-built EyeQ processor, a redundant sensor system of surrounding cameras, and lidar/radar, which will help to monitor remotely all the time.

Schaeffler has introduced a rolling chassis, which combines a fully electric powertrain, steer-by-wire system, and battery in a modular solution.

The new Level 4 Autonomous Stuttle is 5 meters long, 2.2 meters wide, and 2.8 meters high. It will have six fixed seats and three flexible seats. The autonomous shuttle will weigh approximately 5,000kg (11,000 lbs) and have a payload capacity of 1,000kg (2,200 lbs).

The shuttle will have a top speed of 70km/h (43 mph) and can run more than 100 km (62 miles) on a single charge, with a range of more than 350 km (217 miles) per day.

Additionally, the shuttle will feature a large door and low ramp to make wheelchair entry easy.

Demand for self-driving shuttle services is expected to take off in the coming years, especially in many major cities in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia by the end of this century. The envisaged strategic cooperation between Schaeffler and VDL underlines the importance of getting involved in these developments at an early stage. Together, both companies aim to accelerate the development of shuttle vehicles that can be manufactured on a commercial scale.

Willem van der Leegte, President and CEO of VDL Groep, says: “Autonomous shuttles are going to play an important role in our future mobility needs. This vehicle concept fits seamlessly into our broad mobility solution covering design, electrification, connectivity, autonomy, and services. Of course, this planned cooperation is also a fantastic opportunity to pioneer and innovate with our esteemed partners Schaeffler and Mobileye.”

Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG, says: “Self-driving shuttle vehicles will become integral elements of modern mobility ecosystems. They will bring people safely, quickly, and easily from A to B and increase accessibility to mobility for everyone living in cities and rural areas. We at Schaeffler want to support this development with best-in-class systems engineering as well as innovative automotive technology in a sustainable manner. This goal is best realized with strong partners. We are more than happy to team up with VDL Groep and Mobileye.”

Because it is the first country in Europe to approve SAE Level 4 for use on public roads, Germany plans to be the first country where the newly developed and manufactured shuttles will operate.

Thousands of vehicles are expected to be produced by 2030 at the VDL’s facility in the Netherlands. According to the roadmap, testing for the vehicles on the streets will most likely be possible starting in 2025.