Project HEAT

The HOCHBAHN research project on autonomous minibuses

HEAT Hamburg
Five meters long, capacity for 10-16 people, electrically powered: this is the vehicle for our project. © IAV GmbH


To date it is the only research and development project of its kind in Germany: HOCHBAHN intends to trial electric autonomous minibuses on the roads of the HafenCity district – with a vehicle attendant on hand initially who can intervene at any time if required. “Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation”, or HEAT for short, is the name of this HOCHBAHN project in collaboration with renowned partners including companies from German industry. Experts from the worlds of business, science and politics are all certain that the future will be autonomous. However, it is not yet possible to say when production-ready vehicles will be available.

As a pioneer of mobility for Hamburg, HOCHBAHN wants to take an active role in the development of this exciting field from the very beginning.


Key questions about the project:

Over a test period of four years, this research and development project is intended to demonstrate that fully automated or autonomously driving, all-electric minibuses can be used safely in urban road traffic with passengers. The project is one of the first in the world to gradually implement fully autonomous driving. As well as the specific technical equipment required in the vehicle itself, the trial routes will also be fitted with sophisticated equipment (e.g. sensors) and outcomes will be monitored at the HOCHBAHN control centre.

The trial period is divided into three implementation stages, which each place growing demands on the functionality of the vehicles, the length of the route, and the safety and performance of the overall system. In the first project phases, a HOCHBAHN employee will be present in each vehicle. In 2021, HEAT is scheduled to be a central showcase project at the ITS World Congress in Hamburg.

HOCHBAHN is dedicated to developing the intelligent and sustainable mobility of tomorrow for Hamburg. For this reason, we are looking into the possibilities of autonomous driving with a view to making the service we offer our customers even more flexible and needs-based. Autonomous driving is a new technology that should be taken seriously and has the potential to change the mobility market in major and permanent ways – as well as to ensure greater safety on the roads as a whole. In order to prepare for these potential changes, we are working on a research and development project using this technology. We will be familiarising ourselves with the subject step by step, carrying out assessments and, where it makes sense, putting it to use for our business and our passengers.

•    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Centre), Institut für Verkehrssystemtechnik (German Institute of Transportation Systems): Implementation of accompanying research

•    Behörde für Wirtschaft, Verkehr und Innovation (Hamburg’s Department of Economics, Transport and Innovation): Transport planning by the city’s Agency for Roads, Bridges and Water (LSBG), integration of a complete system of traffic lights by HHVA, securing of legal requirements by the Behörde für Inneres und Sport (Hamburg’s Ministry of the Interior and Sports)

•    hySOLUTIONS: Deals with all enquiries and tasks relating to electromobility, performance monitoring and technical and administrative coordination with grant authorities.

•    IAV: Vehicle design and development

•    Institut für Klimaschutz, Energie und Mobilität (Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility): Investigation into new operator and business models, legal support for permits and approvals

•    Siemens: Roadside infrastructure, safety and traffic efficiency

© Hamburger Hochbahn AG 2019