In addition to the vehicle specially developed for this project, the project focuses on questions of traffic and information technology infrastructure, digital control technology and technical interfaces. The most important development objective is to prove that the autonomous minibuses can be used in local public transport. The test track for the emission-free electric buses is located in Hamburg's HafenCity in the immediate vicinity of the Elbphilharmonie, Hamburgs large concert hall.
The HEAT project provides for a step-by-step approach. In the first phase from spring 2019 there will be a test run on a fixed route without passengers and with a professional vehicle attendant who can intervene immediately if necessary. In the next phase, passengers will also be taken along. Furthermore, a vehicle companion will be on board. By the ITS World Congress in 2021, completely autonomous operation without a vehicle attendant is to take place.
The minibus developed by the engineering company IAV is about 5 meters long, 2 meters wide, 2.6 meters high and weighs about 4 tons. The vehicle can accommodate a maximum of 16 passengers. The first vehicle is expected to arrive in Hamburg before the end of this year. A total of three vehicles are planned for the research and development project. The batteries for the electric drive are to be charged via a charging station in HafenCity operated by the energy provider Vattenfall.