Mobility

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Into the future with the People Mover

Tags: Third party articles, Autonomous Driving, E-Mobility
In cooperation with the start-up e.Go, ZF is bringing an autonomous people mover onto the market. Its potential uses are downright manifold. A third party article by Frank Mertens.
Frank Mertens, July 10, 2018
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Frank Mertens reports since 2005 on the car industry. This article was first published on the company website, www.autogazette.de.
The people mover is slated to hit the market in late 2019, to be followed by a cargo mover as well later on. "ZF's commitment to the people mover as part of a joint venture is not primarily attributable to marketing the autonomous vehicle, but to sufficiently analyzing the systems it employs," explained ZF's CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider in an interview with the Autogazette.

As the ZF CEO added, the joint venture with the Aachen start-up e.Go and its founder Günther Schuh will provide a good opportunity to "quickly integrate these new systems in a vehicle in an agile environment with a very young team." Scheider expects that ZF will then be able to bring its systems to readiness for start of production more quickly thanks to everyday use. ZF is contributing the sensors (radar, cameras, LIDAR), the ZF ProAI computing model, the braking and damping systems and the mStars electrical axle drive system to the people mover. This will endow the people mover not only with purely electric-powered driving, but also with autonomous driving. As Torsten Sauren from e.Go stated in a technology workshop conducted by ZF in Friedrichshafen, the vehicle will have room for up to 15 people. "Different interior concepts are conceivable to this end," Sauren remarked. Accordingly, the people mover will have seats and/or standing room.

Quick start of volume production

Quick start of volume production

The vehicle will be driven by a 60 kWh battery that is to enable a range of up to 150 kilometers. While the mover can attain a speed of 70 km/h, in urban areas its speed will lie at only 18 km/h on the average – the speed at which a public transit bus travels. In fact, local public transport is one of the main areas of application for the vehicle concept. "The people mover is superbly suited for conveying passengers from the outskirts of the cities," states Sauren.
e.Go initially expects a five-digit production volume when production commences in late 2019. However, the sales potential for this vehicle is significantly greater. Indeed, the Aachen company has already received numerous inquiries from cities and municipalities. With an eye to sales potential, ZF's CEO Scheider considers that much depends on the progress of infrastructure in the cities, but also on changes in consumer behavior in response to new mobility offers.
The interior provides room for up to 15 people, who can also be conveyed while standing.

Attractive through double utility

Attractive through double utility

The concept of the mover is attractive to ZF's CEO because of its additional utility in the logistics sector. The concept's charm lies especially in the usability of the mover either with a driver operating the steering wheel and accelerator pedal, or as an automatic version. "The vehicle is thus flexibly suitable for the various use cases," notes Scheider. "The second advantage of this duality is that we can also have all our systems running in the driver-operated version." This allows teaching the systems all possible complex traffic situations without the systems actually going live.
Scheider considers it absolutely necessary to fundamentally rethink the conveyance of goods and people. "At ZF, we want to contribute to the discovery of new solutions and stop lamenting the present situation – and be able to offer something," says Scheider. Nevertheless, he has the impression that the exploitation of creative potential is just beginning.

mSTARS

The mSTARS modular axle system is electrically driven and yields 150 kW of power.

Applications first in special areas

Applications first in special areas

The ZF CEO assumes that a vehicle like the people mover will first be used in specially designated urban areas. After all, fully developed automatic driving is a demanding engineering task. "Recently, you might have gained the impression that it's lying just around the corner. But I don't see it this way. It'll come step by step," is Scheider's firm opinion. "It will begin in restricted areas. They may also be large factory premises where employees park in the lot in front of the grounds and are driven to their workplaces by such a conveyance."
As Scheider announced, Friedrichshafen will be among the first cities where the people mover will be used, "where it will drive at a very low speed into the city center. These are use cases that will take us to automatic driving functions step by step."

Commercial vehicles as testing environment

Commercial vehicles as testing environment

Scheider expects that electrically driven and autonomous vehicles will first be used with commercial vehicles, simply because of the total cost of ownership (TCO). Indeed, the CV sector provides sufficient fields of application that do not have the full complexity of urban centers. "Beginning at a depot facility or automatically plowing a field affords us a greater chance of quicker success than having a passenger car drive through an urban area with all its pedestrians, cyclists and dense traffic," emphasizes Scheider. "The latter needs a lot of development time and needs a lot of experience. We can obtain this experience by means of commercial vehicles and the people mover – passenger cars are to follow."

ZF ProAI

The deep-learning-capable ZF ProAI supercomputer enables the automated driving functions of the people mover.