Ottobahn GmbH has plans to take transport to new heights. The German start-up, which was founded in July 2019 and is based in Munich, wants to revolutionise traffic in and
between cities – with a ‘gondola-based’ transportation system. A prototype has already been developed, and a real-size test track is to be built in the south of Munich before the end of 2021.
Auto Futures has been talking to Marc Schindler, ottobahn’s Managing Director (and Can Do Officer).
Schindler started off by telling us the story of how the start-up got going. He says five-six years ago, the company founder perceived that traffic in cities worldwide was facing total collapse and all conventional means of transport cannot correct the situation. The founder, who’s a Munich-based serial foudner of software companies. prefers to remain in the shadows
“Since, he was developing the ottobahn concept, by using an academic, very systematical way to derive the best future mobility solution. In his scope was not only hardware, but also software requirements – and for sure a key boundary was sustainability to create more livable cities,” says Schindler, who has known the founder for many years.
“In July 2019, the time was right, ottobahn was founded, (for) the first couple of months it was more or less a one man show with myself.”
“Ottobahn offers on-demand, personal rapid transportation (PRT) in the third dimension, above today’s traffic. Passengers book a trip using a mobile app, they can board anywhere along the track, as pods can be lowered to the ground independently – traditional stations are no longer needed and we bring you door-to-door,” he explains.
The rail network is located above today’s road traffic and integrates completely into the
cityscape, so there is no need for extra space. The system will also save time and help cut harmful emissions.
“Our ‘ottonomous’ electrically powered pods take passengers directly to their destinations – without stops or transfers. Our AI based Fleet-Managemenet-System (FTS) manages and optimizes the flow of traffic intelligently, the pods themselves contain significant de-centralized decision making methods.”
Schindler say their ambition is to revolutionise urban transport, and, at a later stage. also inter-city-connections. In the future, Ottobahn predicts that the trip between Munich and Berlin will be done in two and a half hours.
In our daily engineering work, we have testing and safety as guiding principles.
The system is 100% powered by renewable energy. The top of the track network will be equipped with solar cells. The batteries of the individual power units are used for the network management of the electricity. The network will use 1.8 kWh energy consumption per 100km.
“Primary power supply of pods through a power busbar built in our tracks. Secondary power supply of pods for any emergency case through batteries in each pod. Power generation through solar panels sitting on top of our tracks,” he says.
Schindler also tells us how important safety to ottobahn. “We rely on strong industry partners with long track record in (railway) engineering and manufacturing. All of them experienced in delivering safety critical products. We are collaborating with German ‘TÜV Süd Industry Services’. Ottobahn will meet all high standards in the railway business.
“To commercialize our solution, we will certify with BOStrab (German Federal Regulators). Hence, in our daily engineering work, we have testing and safety as guiding principles.”
2023 and Beyond
The efficiency of the transportation system comes from software control. All pods coordinate their routes with each other with the help of AI. This means free rides and on-time arrival at the destination.
Since February 2020, the first test track has been in operation in a factory hall in Munich.
The second generation of the power unit, the cabin, and the AI-based software control
system has also been completed.
“We will set up an outdoor reference track south of Munich very soon, to finalize and homologize our solution for global roll-out. Kicking off first commercial tracks is planned by 2023. We will start with individual city applications of around 20-30km length. With a growing network, we will install first inter-city connections,” he says.
Looking to the future, we asked Schindler for his thoughts on what urban mobility will look like by the end of the decade.
“We will still face a collapse. However, we will see significant share of electrically driven transport solutions, but we will see only very minor share of autonomous driving cars. Some air taxis will shuttle you through the cities. We will have a much better integration of existing transport technologies, getting you from A to B. Hopefully with a lot of ottobahn installations globally,” concludes Schindler.