MAN Truck & Bus

Trial runs for the urban transport of the future

Blue electric bus from MAN in motion on a city street

3 Nov 2023

Emission-free, networked – and automated: that’s what the future of urban bus transport looks like. MAN has been working on driverless buses for many years, including the MINGA project in Munich.

Certificate handed over to Dr Martin Schreiner by Federal Minister of Transport Dr Volker Wissing in Berlin

Ready for the off: Dr Martin Schreiner (left), Head of Strategy within the mobility department of the city of Munich, accepts the official certificate of support from Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Transport, in Berlin. Photo: BMDV

There are many reasons in favour of automating buses: in urban transport in particular there is great potential in terms of efficiency and safety. However, costs can also be reduced for fleet operators, for instance, due to lower staff costs. Furthermore, automated buses can also make a long-term contribution to countering the ever-increasing driver shortage.

That’s why MAN Truck & Bus has been working on automating its vehicles for some years. The company is relying on collaborations with technology leaders such as Mobileye as well as pilot projects that test new technologies for autonomous driving in real life. One of these is MINGA. The name of this research project stands for “Münchens automatisierter Nahverkehr mit Ridepooling, Solobus und Bus-Platoons” (Munich local transport with ride sharing, solo buses and bus platoons), but it also reflects the Bavarian pronunciation of the word München. Within the MINGA project, MAN and the Munich public utility company have been evaluating an automated and fully electric MAN Lion’s City E on a line running through the Olympic Park and used primarily by tourists, visitors and recreational users. Pilot operation of automated city buses is set to begin in 2025.

First autonomous production vehicle planned for 2030

The eBus is fitted with an intelligent Automated Driving System (ADS) from Mobileye, which uses sophisticated sensors. Nevertheless, a safety driver will always be on board for all tests. “In MINGA, we are developing the complex interface between the vehicle and the Automated Driving System,” says Jana Kirchen, Product Strategy Manager Automation at MAN Truck & Bus. “It is this development in particular that is a key element of the project and enables us to gather valuable experience for future automated vehicle applications.” Michael Roth, Head of Bus Product Strategy at MAN Truck & Bus, explains: “The MINGA research project is a significant step for us with regard to a proof-of-concept on the route – making it a real milestone. After successful completion of the project, we are leaving the concept phase behind and embarking on real field trials with customers. We are working on the assumption that we will be able to launch a self-driving production vehicle onto the market from 2030.”

The MINGA research project sees a total of around a dozen project partners from the worlds of government, research, business and industry working together. In six work packages, they are concentrating on areas including the integration of automated vehicles into the existing mobility ecosystem, on-demand services, automated scheduled bus line operation and the simulation of automated public transport. The mobility department for Munich, the state capital, is the head of the consortium and takes responsibility for the entire project, which is set to run until December 2025. It receives funding of around €13 million from the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport within the framework of the “Autonomous and connected driving in public transport” funding guidelines.

The team provides detailed insights into the technology of the @CITY bus

A glimpse behind the scenes: During the demonstration journeys, the team provided detailed insights into the technology of the @CITY bus.

Important groundwork in the @CITY project

The work on MINGA is based on projects that MAN has pursued over the last few years. One of these is the @CITY initiative (Automated Cars and Intelligent Traffic in the City) – a joint project backed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. MAN and 14 partners from the automotive and supplier industries worked with software developers and scientists to develop and trial automated driving functions over a period of around 48 months.

For MAN, a key focal point was the arrival and stopping at a bus stop – a typical driving manoeuvre for buses. The experts enabled the vehicles to approach the bus stop autonomously and stop with great precision. MAN demonstrated how well they could do this at the official presentation of the results of the @CITY project at the Aldenhoven Testing Center in June 2022.

The MINGA bus on the road

Vigilant: The MINGA bus uses sophisticated sensor technology to monitor its surroundings.

BeIntelli: bringing automated vehicles to life

MAN is currently working on another project in Berlin in collaboration with the Technical University of Berlin and IAV GmbH Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr. The BeIntelli project sees a large interdisciplinary team from scientific and practical spheres working on bringing an intelligent traffic system with automated vehicles to life. An urban test site has been created in the heart of Berlin, running from the Brandenburg Gate, through Ernst-Reuter-Platz to the Gedächtniskirche. It is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and represents a completely digitalised route that includes test bus stops for digitalised public passenger transport.

In the BeIntelli project, our focus is on the mechanics and thus on systems such as electric steering, a key technology for highly automated driving, and vehicle authorisation.

Michael Roth - Head of Product Strategy Bus at MAN Truck & Bus

An automated MAN electric bus travels the route, fitted with an Automated Driving System from TU Berlin, but still with a safety driver at the wheel. This “explainer bus” has been digitalised for this purpose and fitted with sensors and communications components. Screens have also been installed in the bus to show driving characteristics and technologies and to explain them to passengers. It should be hitting the streets by the end of 2023. “In the BeIntelli project, our focus is on the mechanics and thus on systems such as electric steering, a key technology for highly automated driving, and vehicle authorisation. We also want to primarily use this project to lay the foundations for the integration of ADS hardware and software into our vehicles,” explains Roth.

Automated bus stop approach during test drives for the @CITY project

Hands off! In test journeys for the @CITY project, the bus took over when approaching and stopping at the bus stop.

Collaboration with worldwide technology leader, Mobileye

To ensure that it can always offer the best technical solutions for autonomous buses, MAN works with experts around the world. Technology leaders in this area include Israeli company Mobileye, which has developed Mobileye Drive™. Behind it all lies a turnkey self-driving system that is ready for scalable commercial use, and that has a sophisticated sensor system. It is used in the automated MAN city bus for the MINGA project.

“The fact that the urban bus transport of the future will be not only emission-free and networked, but also automated, is not just a general question, but simply a question of time,” says Barbaros Oktay, Head of Bus at MAN Truck & Bus. “That’s why we have structured our strategic collaboration with Mobileye in such a way that we can set the key milestones together on our route towards the automation of city buses.”

Text: Christian Buck

Photos: MAN/BMDV