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Auve Tech revolutionizes transportation: merging autonomous driving with cutting-edge fuel cell technology

Against climate change, greenhouse gases and particulate emissions, smart city concepts offer approaches to make cities more efficient, technologically advanced, greener and socially inclusive. This includes technical, economic and social innovations in the transport sector, where the Estonian company Auve Tech is one of the pioneers.

The world’s first hydrogen vehicle combining autonomous driving with fuel cell technology as a power source was unveiled in Estonia few years ago. It was developed by the Estonian company Auve Tech and researchers from the University of Tartu and TalTech.

Named ‘Iseauto’, the shuttle has been approved for public transport by the Estonian Road Administration. Over 3m long and 2.40m high, it moves through traffic at 25 km/h. It is ordered on demand. Iseauto can accommodate up to six passengers and is primarily intended to improve last-mile transportation, such as in shopping districts or residential areas less frequented by public transport.

The cooperation between Auve Tech and the University of Tartu is exemplary for the cooperation between Estonian business and science.
Leana Kammertöns, Export Advisor at the Trade Development Agency Enterprise Estonia in Berlin

“Iseauto is also suitable for trade fairs or university campuses, zoos, parks or vacation resorts and open-air museums,” says Johannes Mossov, CEO of Auve Tech.

The development of Iseauto took only two years. The vehicle was tested in several cities in Greece, Norway, Holland, Finland, and Estonia. Photo: Auve Tech

Unique smart city solution from Estonia

Connecting the autonomous shuttles seamlessly with existing transportation systems is part of a smart city concept. Smart City is an environment combining various technologies into a large IoT ecosystem – with sensors, wireless communication, data collection and availability in the cloud.

The shuttles can be integrated into a smart traffic infrastructure, with which they also communicate, for example, while approaching a traffic light to check the duration of the green phase. “Operators get a smart solution that combines self-driving shuttles, smart bus stops and a software platform to create a unique mobile transport system,” says Mossov.

The development took only two years. As part of the EU Horizon 2020 project FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Operation Systems), the vehicle was tested in several cities in Greece, Norway, Holland, Finland, and Estonia. This involved testing in hilly landscapes and hot environments, with high volumes of cyclists, and in traffic hubs such as train stations and airports – all situations that reflect real-world challenges.

Operators get a smart solution that combines self-driving shuttles, smart bus stops and a software platform to create a unique mobile transport system.
Johannes Mossov, CEO of Auve Tech

“Deploying driverless shuttles in mixed traffic environments is a big step,” explains Mossov. “They have to fit into a wide variety of situations, such as intersections with car and bike traffic as well as streetcars, or interaction with pedestrians.”

Remote control was tested across borders from Munich. When Iseauto requires manual intervention, an operator at the remote control centre in Munich can take over the vehicle, resolve the situation and then hand control back to the automated system. With 5G technology, the driverless shuttles can be controlled remotely.

Iseauto can accommodate up to six passengers and is primarily intended to improve last-mile transportation, such as in shopping districts or residential areas less frequented by public transport. Photo: Auve Tech

Cooperation between business and science

“The cooperation between Auve Tech and the University of Tartu is exemplary for the cooperation between Estonian business and science,” says Leana Kammertöns, Export Advisor at the Trade Development Agency Enterprise Estonia in Berlin. “About 50 students were involved in the shuttle project and took away valuable knowledge for their future professional practice.”

Estonia is among the countries with the highest level of education and is among the leaders in mathematics, science and ICT (information and communication technology). One in 10 of Estonia’s students enrols in ICT. The enthusiasm for modern technology also concerns the country’s successful digitisation.

Young Estonians have grown up with digitisation. It began in the mid-1990s with the ‘Tiigrihüpe,’ or tiger leap, when administrative and educational systems were digitised and then transferred into the industrial environment. The level and speed of digitisation have earned Estonia a leadership role in implementing Industry 4.0 solutions, to the point that it is widely considered the most digital country in the world. Solutions from Estonia are used in over 120 countries.

Digital transformation: open for business with companies around the world

“Estonia is open for business,” says Leana Kammertöns. There is a great need for digital transformation for example among German SMEs. Companies of all sizes have problems filling vacancies for information and communications specialists. The DESI, the EU-wide Digital Economy and Society Index sees Finland, Sweden and Estonia as the most advanced in terms of human capital to meet these needs.

GOOD TO KNOW 

  • Iseauto is powered by low-temperature hydrogen cells that generate energy from hydrogen directly in the shuttle.
  • At a low speed, they are extremely economical in consumption and more efficient than electric power from batteries. They have an operating time of 8 hours.
  • Additional ultracapacitors extend the operating time to 24/7. They come from the Estonian company Skeleton Technologies and contain patented nanomaterials called ‘curved graphene’ instead of the activated carbon used by other manufacturers.
  • ‘Curved graphene’ ultracapacitors achieve higher energy and power density, efficiency and reliability. They enable shuttles to be charged within seconds at individual charging points.
  • With more than one million charge and discharge cycles, the ultracapacitors have a service life of more than 10 years and require particularly little maintenance. They are significantly lighter than batteries and contain no hazardous chemicals or toxic metals.

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