Schaeffler and VDL Groep have announced a new partnership to jointly explore the development and production of autonomous electric shuttles designed for public transport use. An initial demonstrator of the AV developed through the partnership will be on display at the IAA Mobility auto show in Munich.

The shuttle spawned from the partnership will offer nine seats, six fixed and three flexible, with a payload of around 1,000 kg (2204 lb). Its autonomous capabilities are enabled by the Mobileye Drive platform, which is equipped with purpose-built EyeQ processors and a sensor suite that includes cameras, radars, and LiDAR sensors. The platform also provides the AV with dedicated mapping solutions. During operations, the AV can reach a maximum speed of 70 km/h (43 mph) and has an estimated range of more than 217 miles (350 km) per day, and more than 62 miles (100 km) on one battery charge.

Following its presentation at IAA Mobility, VDL and Schaeffler will look to develop the AV further as they work towards testing it on streets in 2025. The companies confirmed that they are currently in advanced negotiations with public transport authorities and operators about potential pilot projects involving the AV. Germany is planned to be the first country where the newly developed and manufactured shuttles will operate, benefiting from the country’s recent approval of SAE L4 vehicles for use on public roads. Following these trials, the companies will then look to take the prototypes into series production, where they expect to produce thousands of shuttles per year from 2030 at VDL’s Mobility Innovation Centre located in Born, a village in the Netherlands.

Together, Schaeffler and VDL ultimately intend to develop and build their shuttles for public transport operators, with the companies envisioning these vehicles to be operating as part of a comprehensive ecosystem. The pilot project negotiations they are engaging with alongside operators will help them achieve this goal, with the projects intended to prove the concept and set up a scalable ecosystem with open interfaces.