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HEAT (Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation), Germany’s unique research and development project to integrate an autonomous shuttle bus into regular street traffic.

The new self-driving minibus is five meters long, weighing just under three tons, powered emission-free with electricity, providing space for up to ten passengers traveling through Hamburg’s HafenCity as of mid-2020.

The youngest member of the HOCHBAHN fleet will drive autonomously and completely emission-free. In order to safely find its way along the test route, the minibus will communicate continuously with sensors installed along the route and with the central HOCHBAHN control center. The minibus will begin test operations this August.

The ambitious goal of the HEAT research and development project is to prove that self-driving vehicles can be fully and safely integrated into street traffic as well as a city’s public transport system. The HEAT minibus will be tested under real conditions in public streets and should, as planned, be capable of autonomous driving at speeds up to 50 km/h.

Michael Westhagemann, Hamburg’s Senator for Economics, Transport and Innovation, said: “HEAT offers the city the opportunity to explore all aspects of automated and driving. For us, of course, the rule is: Safety first! Public acceptance is critically important for the future use of autonomous vehicles. Both with a first test route available to all manufacturers for networked and automated driving in the heart of our city as with the HEAT project, we make a clear announcement that we try out new mobility offerings in Hamburg and provide industry and researchers optimal conditions for doing just that. At the ITS World Congress in 2021, we will use HEAT and many other projects to demonstrate that Hamburg is a pioneer in innovative mobility solutions.”

Henrik Falk, CEO of Hamburger Hochbahn, which is responsible for project management, operational implementation and integration of the control center, commented: “In the future, mobility will be emission-free and always made to measure for the needs of customers. Autonomous driving offers us a perspective for creating and providing highly attractive new mobility services. Especially for times of the day or parts of the city where today’s conventional public transport solutions are reaching their limits and thus aren’t attractive enough to motivate people to switch from private cars.”

Matthias Kratzsch, Managing Director of IAV, added: “The HEAT project is a prime example of how one can successfully shape the future of mobility: With the close coordination and interaction of cities, public transport systems and companies with complementary strengths. The IAV has been working since 1995 on a wide variety of technologies related to autonomous driving. We are bringing this pool of experience to the HEAT consortium. The self-driving minibus is introducing an environmentally friendly means of transport to Hamburg’s streets that sets technological standards. IAV is responsible for the development, delivery and maintenance of the minibus in the project.”

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