Modular approaches mark autonomous transport concepts

September 21, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Modular vehicle approaches dominate autonomous transport
With the U-Shift vehicle concept, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has presented a model for shaping future mobility. The autonomous vehicle is characterised above all by its modularity, making it easier to adapt the vehicle to the versatile mobility requirements of the future for goods and people. In this way, DLR researchers confirm the trend in the R&D community towards modular designs for autonomous transport solutions.

The central feature of the U-Shift approach is the separation of the vehicle, named drive board, and the capsule-shaped superstructures for transporting people or goods. The U-shaped drive unit contains all the expensive technical components and systems needed to travel autonomously, electrically and quietly. For maximum efficiency, the Driveboard is in operation around the clock if possible. The capsules, which can be manufactured at a much lower cost, can be designed for a wide range of applications.

The U-Shift prototype has the dimensions of a larger van. In its current state of development, the driveboard is remote-controlled; in future, it is to be completely autonomous. During development, particular importance was attached to the aspect of safety. The passenger capsule is equipped with seven seats and a folding seat. A large door with an integrated ramp ensures barrier-free access. The cargo capsule offers space for four Euro pallets or eight grid trolleys.

The drivebord module can accomodate a wide range of application-specific transport modules for persons and goods © DLR

With the help of the prototype, DLR researchers want to gain initial experience with the system that picks up and sets down the capsules. They are in close contact with potential producers and operators. At the same time, they are holding intensive talks with the public to discuss the needs and wishes for U-Shift deployment scenarios and the associated future jobs. With this input, the scientists want to further develop the vehicle concept. An important item on the developers' agenda is to test the interfaces between man and vehicle. This includes the mechanism for opening the doors, the flow of information and any access restrictions. The next step will be to increase the performance of the drive train, install hardware and sensors for automated and networked driving, test a new battery system and further develop the chassis and lifting device.

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