Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt (DLR), the German Aerospace Center, has unveiled the futuristic U-shift vehicle concept which has the potential to fulfil a wide range of applications including on-demand shuttle, high-tech on-call bus, a versatile distribution centre for goods and parcels, or as a mobile sales vehicle.
The flexibility of the vehicle is achieved by creating a modular "drive board" with several multi-use "capsule" add-ons (see video below). These individual capsules have distinct designs and purposes, allowing the U-Shift to transform into different vehicles for a variety of different uses and industries.
A research consortium led by DLR presented the first operable prototype at the Interim Conference of the Strategic Dialogue for the Automotive Sector
in Baden-Württemberg on 17 September in Stuttgart.
The project has received around 12 million euros in funding from the Baden-Württemberg Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing.
Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Baden-Württemberg Minister for Economic Affairs, said: “We want to make tomorrow’s mobility more sustainable, effective and convenient. Entirely new products and business models can emerge from futuristic innovations such as the U-Shift vehicle concept. It is essential that we support our small and medium-size enterprises in Baden-Württemberg during the automotive industry’s transformation process and help them find a new role in the field of future vehicle concepts and mobility solutions. The modular approach opens up a lot of opportunities in this area."
Karsten Lemmer, DLR Executive Board Member for Energy and Transport, said: “With the modular U-Shift concept, we are taking significant steps towards the mobility transformation.
“Prototypes are extremely important, especially for the adoption of innovative concepts by the automotive industry, or logistics and mobility service providers. They allow researchers and future users to truly experience and help to improve the mobile world of tomorrow."
A second, fully automated prototype capable of reaching speeds up to approximately 60km/hr is planned for 2024. In the process, the U-Shift team is looking to examine innovative business areas relating to new mobility services and reshape existing business sectors, for instance by conducting pilot tests with logistics companies.
As part of the U-shift project, the DLR Institute of Vehicle Concepts has partnered with the Stuttgart Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines (FKFS), which is developing the drivetrain, and the Institute of Vehicle System Technology (FAST) and Institute for Information Processing Technology (ITIV) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), which have contributed the chassis and the electrical and electronic architecture.
The Institute of Measurement, Control and Microtechnology (MRM) at Ulm University is responsible for the automation.