When the taxi rickshaw comes with the packages

The blue electric rickshaw is parked in front of the main entrance of the Technical University (TU). A trailer with packages is attached. The unusual combination should be about three and a half meters long. Roman Engelhardt and Fabian Fehn have been out and about in a rickshaw for several days – for a research project at the TU. The idea: They collect people, but also parcels, in the Maxvorstadt and drive them from A to B. A field test that gives an outlook on the mobility of the future.

It is based on the principle of “ride pooling”, which providers in other cities are already pursuing: people who have to go in a similar direction can share a ride. This is ordered and coordinated via app. The Munich pilot project is called “Ride-Parcel-Pooling”, because it goes even further: not only people, but also objects can be transported.

Because the linking of people and packages could save trips and emissions, explains Fehn. Ideally, the experiment shows that it is possible to flexibly combine both anywhere in the city. A rickshaw was purchased specifically for the field test. There are also four companions including a driver from the provider “Lederhosen-Express”.

Field test on mobility: The vehicle purchased especially for the experiment is parked in front of the Technical University.

The vehicle, which was specially purchased for the experiment, is parked in front of the Technical University.

(Photo: Fabian Fehn/TUM)

In the future, according to the vision, the whole thing would no longer be linked to rickshaws and certainly not to drivers, but would be carried out with the help of autonomous buses. Automated mobility is also the core of the “Tempus” project – which stands for “Test field Munich – pilot test of urban automated road traffic”. The rickshaws are a small part of this comprehensive research project of the Chair of Transport Technology, which is funded by the federal, state and city governments.

But when it comes to autonomous driving, why bikes? Quite simply: “It’s still too early for autonomous vehicles,” explains Engelhardt. In addition, the electric rickshaw is not only space-saving compared to cars or buses, but also “100 percent ecological,” adds Fehn. “Local emissions are at zero.”

Journeys and transport are booked via the app

The field test is intended to answer various questions. The first: “Does everything we came up with work?” The two 30-year-old doctoral students have been scientifically dealing with digitally controlled traffic for five years. The app probably did the most groundwork. They would have put in a year and a half, explains Engelhardt. To put it in scientific terms, they now want to “calibrate the simulation using real application”. In other words, it needs to be clarified whether the app can be used properly.

From the point of view of the two researchers, this is how it works with simulations: “As long as everything is properly programmed, it will go smoothly.” But in reality it often looks different. A user might make a mistake. Another would like to spontaneously cancel the trip. “You only find out something like that when you try it out,” they say.

Field trial on mobility: around 110 people have already registered for the project, despite the short trial duration of just one week.

About 110 people have already registered for the project, despite the fact that the trial lasted only a week.

(Photo: Robert Haas)

And it’s about the question: do people even participate? The conclusion of the scientists so far: “Especially towards the end of the week the project was well received.” A total of around 110 people had registered. Around 300 trips were requested in the app. Not all could be edited. The attempt had to struggle with the fact that it only ran for a week.

As Fehn explains, this eliminates two important points that users of such services expect: “reliability and consistency”. You can only really tell a lot about the effects of mobility and logistics concepts that focus on sharing when they are established and used by many.

For Fehn and Engelhardt it has kicked off for the time being. The two researchers now turn to the detailed evaluation of the experiment. After the five-day test phase, Fehn comes to the conclusion: “Overall, it’s a model that could definitely complement local public transport.” In general, he was enthusiastic about how well the digital application worked. “It would be a shame if it disappeared into a drawer now,” he says.

A big question when it comes to the future combination of transport of people and products is still open: Can the whole thing become a “business case”, as Fehn calls it? Or to put it another way: “Is it commercializable?” Because that’s sad, but the same applies here: “Nothing going on without moss.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You might like