Director, Marketing & Communications
The "Route 12" project with its self-driving bus in the Swiss Transit Lab in the Swiss Canton of Schaffhausen has taken another important step in the direction of a scheduled bus service today: the 11-seater vehicle – a new shuttle with 4x4 drive – has officially started operating the entire route between Neuhausen city centre and the Rhine Falls basin today. The track also includes the steepest public transport route in the world ever mastered by a self-driving vehicle. This was after an unfortunate incident occurred between the self-driving bus and a cyclist on 2nd of June. This incident was thoroughly analysed and subsequently approval for further operation was given.
Since March 2018, the Swiss Transit Lab in the Canton of Schaffhausen has been operating a self-driving vehicle on "Route 12" in the existing network of the Schaffhausen Transport Authority (VBSH). This was the world's first integration of a self-driving vehicle into an existing public transport operations control system. After a successful first year with around 30,000 passengers carried, another milestone has now been reached in the "Route 12" project: From today the route will be extended to the Rhine Falls basin, serving seven stops over a total length of around one kilometre.
With the extension to the Rhine Falls, a new, further developed vehicle will also go into operation. The vehicle manufacturer has designed a stronger version of the shuttle to cope with the height difference of almost 60 metres with a maximum gradient of 15%. This shuttle has two electric motors and a four-wheel drive (4x4) and will be used on the road for the first time at the Rhine Falls. The fact that a self-driving vehicle in public transport is able to cope with a gradient of around 15% is once again a world premiere. The vehicle is used bi-directionally on the section between “Industrieplatz” and the Rhine Falls basin, i.e. it travels back and forth without having to turn around. "The lower section poses different challenges than the upper section. The feeder traffic is minimal. Due to the limited space available and the gradient, however, it was not easy to optimally define and program the lane and the stops. Now we can offer tourists, guests and residents of Neuhausen am Rheinfall a unique experience," says Tobias Vonarburg, Project Manager at AMoTech GmbH.
The Swiss Transit Lab is a competence centre for the mobility of the future. The "Route 12" project only highlights one aspect. On the now extended route, a short mobility tour at a total of seven stops will highlight various topics relating to mobility in a comparison of then and now. "Mobility is one of the focus industries in the Canton of Schaffhausen. We are delighted with the many successes of the Swiss Transit Lab, but are also proud of our other historic achievements – from infrastructure to services," says Patrick Schenk, Head of Regional Development of the canton.
At the test site in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, the development of services and solutions for tomorrow's mobility is being developed. Hence, the Swiss Transit Lab was recently awarded the Smart City Innovation Award. The prize went to the project idea of a seamless and sustainable mobility concept between the elevators to the Rhine Falls and the self-driving shuttle. "Thanks to Route 12 in the Swiss Transit Lab, we see many areas of application for the public transport of the future – which is also why we are involved in the project," explains Peter Schneck, CEO of Trapeze Switzerland GmbH.
The project partners are now concentrating primarily on the further integration of the self-driving bus and on the implementation of further project ideas in the Smart City. The shuttle runs daily from 1 pm to 5 pm and on Sundays and public holidays from 10 am to 6 pm. Due to the extended route, the bus now changes from a 10-minute to a 30-minute cycle. Since further internal tests will be carried out, the shuttle will not be available for passengers on all days, which is why the valid timetable is published daily on www.swisstransitlab.com.
After the incident between the self-driving bus and a cyclist, the event was thoroughly analyzed. This investigation has now been completed and the clearance for reopening of the test operation has already been granted. Furthermore, the safety of all parties involved is a top priority for those responsible at the Swiss Transit Lab. The analyses mentioned have shown that there is no safety risk. Details of the analysis and the question of guilt will be announced after completion of the police investigation, which will take some time.
In May 2019, the initiators of the Swiss Transit Lab reorganised themselves in the form of an association. The legal body is intended to reflect the increasing importance of the Swiss Transit Lab. In addition, the structure of an association makes it easier for new companies to gain access. Two new member companies recently joined the Swiss Transit Lab. These are p2data GmbH and PhotoGnosis GmbH. Bruno Schwager, Director of the VBSH and President of the Swiss Transit Lab, is pleased about the new members and invites further interested parties to cooperate: "The Swiss Transit Lab association is deliberately very open. Together with other companies, we would like to make the future of mobility even more customer-oriented".