The “Stimulate” project will run for three years, from May 2017 to April 2020. Over this time, it will cover three distinct phases:
- Phase I: vehicles operated with assistance and no passengers (technical test)
- Phase II: operation with assistance and passengers
- Phase III: 100% driverless operation with passengers
Following extensive technical trials around the end of 2017, it is expected that the first passengers will be able to test the driverless minibuses under day-to-day conditions in the spring of 2018. At the Charité’s sites in Mitte and the Virchow-Klinikum, four buses will operate on three defined routes with set stops and at a maximum of 20 km/h. These four electric vehicles comprise two made by Navya and two by Easy Mile, both French manufacturers. The two vehicle types contain the latest technology for automated minibuses used to carry passengers. The Navya model can transport up to 15 persons, while the Easy Mile vehicles have room for 12.
The two Charité sites, covering areas of some 270,000 m² and 138,000 m², are of a good size for the trials and with their footpaths, junctions, and road users including pedestrians, cyclists, and car, lorry, and bus drivers act as a microcosm of Berlin’s traffic as a whole. In addition, all emergency vehicles with their lights flashing have priority on the hospital grounds.
As part of the joint project, the Charité Institute of Medical Sociology and Rehabilitation and the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport, and Climate Protection will carry out a user acceptance survey and explore other practical aspects relating to the use of driverless buses. The BVG hopes to obtain important findings on the potential of this new technology from the trial, for example as a possible complement to high-performance public transport systems or routes with low passenger numbers.