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Mobility transition: a vision from Kiel

In a multi-faceted concept, Kiel University and its partners outline the idea and implementation of an integrated inner-city mobility chain of the future. And this goes far beyond just climate-friendly means of transport.

Figure showing vehicles
© CAU, Design: UXMA GmbH

The initiative "Clean Autonomous Public Transport Network (CAPTN)" wants to fundamentally reform public transport in Kiel – with autonomous ferries and buses, with artificial intelligence and data platform.

Autonomous ferries, powered by green hydrogen, commute across the Kiel Fjord. Their schedule is not based on a strict timetable, but on passenger needs. At the jetty, passengers can take buses or rental bikes to get to their final destination, all according to the route planned with the mobile phone app. And all of this works without long waiting times, as the demand for buses and ferries can be accurately predicted based on the smart analysis of relevant traffic and infrastructure data. This is how the CAPTN initiative (Clean Autonomous Public Transport Network) from Kiel envisions the future of public transport in the city. The working group has outlined its ideas in the "CAPTN Future" implementation concept, on the basis of which the project team applied for funding within the future cluster initiative "Clusters4Future" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The initiative is led by Kiel University, carried out in cooperation with Kiel University of Applied Sciences, the Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design and the City of Kiel as well as a wide range of partners in the industrial sector. Wissenschaftszentrum Kiel GmbH is involved in the coordination of the initiative.

"This is all about creating a clean, integrated public transport system that works with autonomous means of transport. Important aspects here are not only climate neutrality, but also ease of use and flexibility," Professor Carsten Schultz from the Institute for Innovation Research at Kiel University, who is the spokesperson for the planned future cluster, explained. The concept of the integrated mobility chain is based on the idea of linking publicly accessible means of transport indiscriminately and making them accessible to users. Autonomous ferries are a key element of this. The reason for the focus on autonomy: "Small, flexible ferries that commute based on demand and not only from A to B, but to far more destinations, that's what we need autonomous traffic for. After all, it would be impossible to staff such a great number of ferries," according to Schultz. He sees the Kiel Fjord as a pilot project for other cities around the world and perceives the future cluster as an open innovation network. "We use open innovation methods to promote the exchange between science, industry and society; as such, we can assess the effectiveness of the field test carried out in our project."

However, there is still a lot of planning, research and development to be done before autonomous ferries will be able to cross the Fjord in regular operation. This is not only about sensor technology, clean propulsion, data infrastructure and artificial intelligence, but also includes legal aspects and social issues. According to Schultz, "the project has many faces, and those involved in computer science and engineering work together in teams with experts from physics, business administration, geography, law, etc. We also have to deal with the general question of do I actually want to use autonomous means of transport, and should I?" This is what we address in the different research and development projects of the CAPTN Future concept carried out by Kiel University, Kiel University of Applied Sciences and the Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design. The involvement of the arts academy is important, according to Schultz, as "we also have a communication task. After all, we are creating a completely new world of mobility. And these worlds of experience have to be designed in a conscious manner, using suitable approaches from industrial and interaction design to create acceptance and ensure active participation."

In Schultz's opinion, CAPTN Future is an excellent example of transdisciplinarity. This is about more than interdisciplinary collaboration. "Not only do we have a diverse working group comprising a wide variety of scientists presenting us with various hurdles from different languages to different research philosophies, but we also have 13 corporate partners from the industry that are supposed to get actively involved and also invest money. This gives you a very good idea of how difficult and complex transdisciplinarity actually is."

Author: Kerstin Nees


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