Berlin’s local public transport system is considered one of the best in the world – reliable, comfortable, safe and environmentally friendly. In future, it will also adapt on an individual basis to the routes requested by its passengers: with a supplementary local public transport service provided on-demand. Two strong partners with complementary areas of competence, Berlin’s local transport operator Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) and ViaVan, a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via, have now joined forces to form a research and development collaboration to work on this concept.

The pilot project that is scheduled to start in the Spring of 2018 will offer an on-demand ridesharing service involving an initial fleet of 50 state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the eastern part of inner-city Berlin, in other words in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg districts. A very straight-forward process will involve passengers using an app to call a local public transport vehicle at short notice to an agreed point. A large proportion of BVG’s existing stops, as well as additional virtual stopping points, for example at junctions, will be built into the virtual network of possible stops for the new on-demand shuttle service. All in all, the aim is to expand the fleet over the course of the project to 300 vehicles.

Of particular note here is that this project in Berlin represents the first time that close integration of ridesharing and local public transport has been offered on such a wide scale. It will involve a range of different requested routes being packaged together. Each journey starts and ends at a virtual stop and is shared with other passengers. The sophisticated algorithms created by the software experts from Via allow the system to calculate very efficiently in real time which journeys can practicably be packaged together without too many diversions. The environment, local residents and passengers all benefit from the arrangement, as it means that there will be far less traffic on Berlin’s streets and that attractive fares can be offered – it all amounts, in fact, to a new form of local public transport.

The digital tariff that has been specially developed for this concept is made up of a basic rate plus a distance-based supplement, so pricing the service somewhere between the classic rate for local public transport and a taxi fare. Booking the journey by app ensures that the price that will ultimately be charged is known when the booking is made and does not then change. If one person books a journey for several passengers together, a further discount becomes applicable.

The fleet is provided by the vehicle experts from Mercedes-Benz and will initially involve state-of-the-art Vito and V-Class vans (Euro 6) with up to eight seats, plus all-electric Mercedes B-Class B250e cars with four seats. From next summer, the fleet will be enhanced by the arrival of the new, all-electric eVito Tourer, which will go into use in Berlin as the very first locally emission-free minibus operating anywhere in the world. The vehicles will also genuinely stand out in Berlin’s street scene, as their liveries will feature prominently the familiar BVG seat upholstery design, while they will also carry large yellow BVG hearts and the ViaVan logo.

Over the course of the collaboration, which has initially been agreed for a period of around two years, the aim is to add the ability to request a vehicle with disabled access. What is currently being tested is not just how the concept copes with the capital city’s challenging traffic conditions, but also how it is accepted by the residents of Berlin. Subsequent expansion of the system to further areas of Berlin might be possible.

Source: Mercedes-Benz Vans