Four years of project work, 48 partners, 7 demonstration projects and a total budget of around 26 million – these are just some of the statistics generated by the European Bus System of the Future, or EBSF for short, which is the biggest road-related transportation project to be funded by the European Commission to date. On 15 October 2012, the International Association of Public Transport (in French: Union Internationale des Transports Publics, UITP) - as the body designated to lead and coordinate the EBSF project - presented the results of the individual EBSF projects, or so-called "Use Cases", to the press in Brussels.
As a comprehensive, widely networked research project for the design and development of an innovative, high-quality European bus system of the future, four years ago the EBSF project took on the goal of demonstrating the capabilities of a new generation of urban bus networks and creating the basis for an integrated systems approach (vehicle, infrastructure, technology, operation) with takes future passenger requirements into account. Project members in seven European countries have painstakingly assessed and compiled the data from the demonstration projects. EvoBus GmbH participated in two projects.
Project: passenger information systems
One of the demonstrator vehicles created as part of the EBSF project was based on a Mercedes-Benz Citaro articulated bus. The vehicle incorporated ideas from a sub-project concerned with passenger information and communication systems. The Citaro G was used for nine months between 2011 and 2012 by the Bremerhaven Public Transport company on route 502.
Using a host of visual features both inside and out - such as a door entry and exit system controlled by LED lights using traffic light colours, a seat identification system or externally aligned monitors, and also information systems in the interior - the responsible project managers hoped to gain an insight into whether and how passenger flows could be managed more specifically and rapidly. It was also hoped that the newly designed area opposite doors 2 and 3 would shed light on the flow of passengers. Here fixed seating or spaces devoted purely to pushchairs or wheelchairs were dispensed with, and in their place an open space with folding seats and leaning areas was created. Another goal of the trials, which were conducted in real regular service conditions, was to ascertain the best information channels and best content to use to address passengers, tourists or tour groups. A comprehensive host of additional equipment (WLAN, GPS amplifier, 240 V sockets) was designed to enhance the appeal of regular service buses, and also to provide information on whether such features could generate new target groups or even strengthen the appeal of regular service buses for existing users.
Insights from the passenger information systems project
Nine months of regular service operation have provided a very clear picture of the practical application of such systems. While follow-up work still has to be carried out on some ideas, others have proved suitable for immediate implementation. The design of space using leaning areas and folding seats was in fact so well received that the Bremerhaven Transport Authority has already applied the idea by retrofitting the design to many of its vehicles. Newly acquired vehicles will basically help to continue to implement the idea. Another success was achieved in the area of passenger information systems. Two-thirds of the fleet have already been fitted with 20-inch monitors. The mixture of infotainment, news reports and transport connection information proved so popular among passengers that the transport operator sees this as a significant measure for increasing the appeal of the bus service. Although passengers did not consider a lot of the additional equipment such as WLAN, 240 V sockets and the seat identification system to be absolutely essential, such measures were nevertheless viewed positively within the context of modernity. The same applied to the innovative exterior design and the door entry illumination system: the latter was viewed by users more as a decorative or design element, and no particular change in entry or exit behaviour was noted during the test phase.
European driver's cockpit project
As part of the project for an ergonomically optimised European bus driver's cockpit, the EBSF project explored driver issues. The project examined in detail what parameters would have to be established in order to create a standardised European driver's cockpit, similar to what has been achieved with the VDV 234 guidelines in Germany.
Apart from the ergonomic aspects, factors such as the driver's personal needs, safety considerations and compliance with European regulations were looked at. The test series was carried out at the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems in Dresden, based on a variety of statistical data (in terms of sex, age, height) and using test subjects (active drivers) from Rome, Dresden and Gothenburg. The test series comprised interviews, analytical data collection (e.g. measuring the selected seat and cockpit settings), test drives and observations made in the 3D simulator, as well as a follow-up survey of the test drivers. The newly designed driver's cockpit (mock-up) enabled the test drivers to try out a wide variety of adjustment options. This helped to ensure that the individual needs of the drivers were taken into account: whether it was a case of adjusting the instrument panel, the steering wheel or the driver's seat suspension system. It also guaranteed that all possible physiological factors - large, small, male or female - would meet with the same levels of driving and working comfort in the cockpit. As part of the test drives, the drivers "drove" along virtual regular service routes through Dresden and Rome in a specially developed driver's cockpit in a 3D simulator.
Insights from the European driver's cockpit project
Despite the different requirements imposed by a variety of European cities, it was still possible to explore real needs in a synthetic environment. In conjunction with the driving simulator, the static driver's cockpit (mock-up) enabled realistic minimum and nominal dimensions to be defined and typical sequences of movements and ergonomic standards to be determined.
During the subjective assessment of the driver's cockpit mock-up which was implemented, it became clear that in general drivers place a great deal of value on stowage spaces and stowage options. Marked differences specific to certain countries were determined when assessing features relevant to safety (e.g. access protection). The individual adjustment options for the instrument panel, steering wheel and seat were consistently classified as positive. Also assessed as extremely positive by the test drivers was the executed design of both the driver's cockpit and the simulation.
The participants in the project provided some important input into which of the visionary cockpit features could be transferred to a standardised European driver's cockpit, and which specific local features it would be worth including.
Conclusion of the EBSF project
Some 48 project partners made up of vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, operators, official bodies, researchers and consultancies have shaped the EBSF project over a four-year period. Together they were looking for trailblazing, combinable vehicle, infrastructure and operational designs, as well as possibilities for technical harmonisation and standardisation. In addition to the commitment from EvoBus, other manufacturers also provided their visions of the future of local public transport, and ultimately brought them to life by building demonstrator vehicles. Plenty of good ideas – and the EBSF project management is certain about this – will soon be adopted by suppliers and manufacturers, and also incorporated into their development and production processes. Other approaches to solutions, on the other hand, while proving impressive in theory, actually failed when implemented in practice. In some cases such ideas failed due to small technical details, but also due to regulatory circumstances. Yet in fact such "problems" also gave rise to new areas of activity. The EBSF project has shown how effectively and innovatively manufacturers, suppliers and operators can work together when they think and act in a networked way. In view of this, the future of public local transport is likely to be based on a joint decision.