What Does the Future of Mobility Hold?

Bielefeld University coordinating preliminary study called “Networked Mobility OWL”

A world with transportation available to passengers on demand, without the limitations of set departure times or stops, all at an affordable price: this is the vision for the mobility of the future. Researchers at Bielefeld University, the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences, and the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation – Industrial Automation Branch (Fraunhofer IOSB-INA) in Lemgo, Germany, are working on this topic in a joint preliminary study called “Networked Mobility OWL.” The study will provide the basis for four individual “lighthouse” projects that are currently in the qualifying process of Regionale 2022, a structural regional development program. This preliminary study is being financed with funding from the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Dr. Thorsten Jungeblut from Bielefeld University’s Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) is serving as project coordinator.

The researchers participating in the preliminary study. Dr. Thorsten Jungeblut from CITEC (right) is co-ordinating the project. Photo: CITEC/Bielefeld University “Networked mobility makes it possible for people from all walks of life to be transported according to their individual needs – whether for the elderly, for those wish to travel without a car, or for those who need to transport their bicycles. Networked mobility means having transportation available regardless of whether you live in the country or in the city, and regardless of what time you need to travel,” says Jungeblut. “To achieve networked mobility, different means of transportation, such as train, bus, or bike have to be combined to the greatest extent possible, including the use of automated and autonomous vehicles. However, this poses unique technical, social and legal challenges.”

These challenges, such as which technologies are already available for autonomous vehicles for road and rail and to what extent these technologies are suitable for local public transportation, will be examined in the context of this study. Another important point here is that transportation options be available to all potential passengers regardless of their age, level of education, or physical ability. For this reason, another goal of the study is to analyze how potential passengers would be able to interface with these new technologies. And finally, there are a number of legal problems that arise from networked mobility, including autonomous driving and issues of data privacy protection. In order to pick up individual people with the bus, for instance, information on the person’s location or residence is needed. These legal boundary conditions will also come under scrutiny in this study.

Four “lighthouse” projects will be created based on the findings from this study: “Autöpia” from Bielefeld University, “Future Rail OWL” from the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, “AutoBahn” from the Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences and „LastMile“ from Fraunhofer IOSB-INA in Lemgo. Each of these lighthouse projects is meant to contribute to the realization and implementation of networked mobility. “Autöpia,” for example, deals with the use of autonomous buses in rural areas: the idea here is that buses would move along corridors rather than fixed routes and would drive directly to your house exactly when you need it. “All four lighthouse projects are confronted with similar challenges. This is why it is important to work out a common basis in a cross-project preliminary study, which will allow us to lay the groundwork for possible implementation at a later stage,” says Jungeblut.

The lighthouse projects are currently in the qualifying phase of Regionale 2022, a regional development program of the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Over the next years, this will be implemented in the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe, and mobility is one of the four areas of action. The qualifying process will take place in three steps. If the project concept has the potential, in principle, for regional funding, it is given “status C.” Concrete projects with “status B” are candidates for being accepted as regional projects. And projects that have proven their feasibility receive “status A” and with this, regional funding. The four lighthouse projects currently all have “status C.” 

More information:
Regionale 2022 website: http://www.regionale2022.de

Dr. Thorsten Jungeblut, Bielefeld University
Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC)
Telephone: +49 521 106-12031
Email: jungeblut@techfak.uni-bielefeld.de