Public transportation is set to double worldwide by 2025 and buses will play a crucial role in the smart networking of the various means of transport.
One of the first demonstration vehicles from the European Bus System of the Future (EBSF) research project was recently displayed at the international Mercedes-Benz convention on future public transportation. The vehicle, which is based on the Mercedes-Benz Citaro, examines ideas associated with new passenger assistance systems. When the bus nears a stop, for example, special lighting elements show passengers where it is best to get on, so that “congestion” is avoided at the doors. In the interior, appropriate ceiling lights show passengers where seats are currently unoccupied, reducing the time spent looking for a seat and the distance that needs to be walked through the bus. WLAN, GPS, and 230 V sockets enable passengers to operate laptops and similar devices in the bus. EBSF is the biggest road-related transportation project to be funded by the European Commission to date. Its aim is to demonstrate the capabilities of a new generation of urban bus networks. EBSF encompasses a total of seven demonstration projects devoted to topics such as driver area, energy management, communications, and intermodality. The investigations will be carried out in seven European cities.
Innovative concepts are becoming increasingly important for local public transportation, which is striving to deal with the effects of global megatrends such as the growing world population, increasing urbanisation, and climate change. These developments are expected to cause public transport to double worldwide. What’s more, research has also discovered a growing potential for public transportation among up-market social groups rather than only the young and elderly. In addition, most target groups do not think that passenger cars and local public transportation are mutually incompatible, but that a mix between the two will result in optimal mobility.
A key feature of future local public transportation will be the networking of different means and facilities of transport, including e-bikes, car-sharing, rail systems, and road transport. Buses will naturally play a key role in this development, as not only do they play a major part in public transport, but it has been found that they come out tops in terms of safety, environmental compatibility, sustainability, economic efficiency, and flexibility as well.
Comfort and appeal are also key areas that the development of future bus generations is focusing on. This applies to the driver area and associated visibility as well as to seating comfort, climate control, brightness, and the attractiveness of the passenger compartment. Just as appealing is the increasing provision of useful information for operators, drivers, and customers alike. Equipping the buses with WLAN and GPS allows tourists to use their smartphones to find their way around a big city. In addition, fleet management systems ensure drivers and operators are always in direct contact and can smoothly share or call up information. The vehicle safety of regular-service buses will also be steadily enhanced, thanks to features like collision protection and safety cabs for drivers, and the introduction of ESP in city buses.
Making local public transportation sustainable, comfortable, modern and attractive also depends on the business opportunities, which are determined by government agencies, transport operators, and, not least, the passengers. Buses are extremely profitable, thanks to a wide variety of factors ranging from their purchase costs and infrastructure demands to their availability, reliability and lifecycle costs. Vehicle manufacturers contribute their bus-specific expertise and continuously enhance the corresponding services, including full-service contracts, innovative fleet management systems, and driver training courses, for improving driving safety and fuel economy.