On the road without a driver for 365 days
The first driverless bus has been running in Bad Birnbach for a year and now a route extension is planned
The small bus moves along silently with no driver, just an attendant on board. The electrically powered minibus bears the inscription "ioki", which stands for "input output artificial intelligence" ("Input Output künstliche Intelligenz"), and has long been a part of the street scene in Bad Birnbach. With its subsidiary ioki, Deutsche Bahn brings on-demand mobility and driverless vehicles to public transport. ioki offers all services from a single source, for example enabling cities or municipal authorities to operate public transport on-demand mobility services under their own name.
The first public transport, driverless bus has been in operation for exactly 365 days. During this time, it has carried more than 20,000 passengers and covered more than 10,000 kilometres without a driver. Kurt Vallèe, Deputy District Administrator (Rottal-Inn District), sees the project as having a special effect. "The fact that the driverless bus operates here in the rural district of Lower Bavaria sends out a clear signal for the future of mobility in rural areas. Especially here in our area, people are highly dependent on cars," he explained. This project emphasises the need to cultivate traditions and, at the same time, to be open to innovation, to combine a sense of home with an openness to the world. There are many examples of this: the future city competition, the planned creation of a digital business incubator in the district, "but above all this unique "driverless bus" project, which is a real beacon," says Vallèe.
Bad Birnbach's mayor, Josef Hasenberger, continued in the same vein. "Bad Birnbach and the district of Rottal-Inn have written a piece of federal German transport history with the first driverless minibus in the public sector," he said at the press conference. He thanked all partners in the project, Deutsche Bahn AG with ioki, Landkreis Rottal-Inn, manufacturer EasyMile, TÜV Süd and Regionalbus Ostbayern GmbH, which had ensured smooth day-to-day operations. The bus attendant has become an important source of information about the driverless bus, as well as a means of advertising the Rottal spa resort. Josef Hasenberger also explained why people in Rottal are so intensely concerned with this topic. There are more stops in Germany's most scattered administrative district than in the entire city of Munich, with, however, correspondingly fewer passengers. The market town of Bad Birnbach alone has an area of 70 square kilometres, according to the mayor. Around 5,700 people, spread over 85 districts, live here. "I think it is possible to deduce from this alone what potential we still see here for the future," he said looking ahead.
Chris Büttner, Project Manager of Driverless Vehicles at ioki, also had some good news to share: "Second generation vehicles will soon arrive in Bad Birnbach. When that happens, we will establish a new bus stop that will bring the station, which is about two kilometres away from the town centre, closer to the town centre. When the route is extended, the minibus will cover the so-called last mile, providing a mobility connection that will ensure the journey to the town centre is seamlessly covered by public transport. This will make things considerably more convenient for tourists and locals alike."