The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has unveiled the prototype of its Urban Modular Vehicle (UMV). This intelligent, modular electric city car brings together DLR research in the fields of automated and networked driving, propulsion technology, vehicle design and structure, energy management and chassis mechatronics.

DLR says that the UMV city car of tomorrow offers "a completely new way of thinking." With the aim of bringing innovations in the mobility sector onto the road quickly and cost effectively, DLR says its transport researchers have "completely rethought the city car of tomorrow." The vehicle is automated and electrically powered while meeting safety standards and offering occupant comfort. Additionally, the design is aimed at being flexible and efficient to manufacture.

“The keyword of the UMV concept is modularization, which goes far beyond the platform-based construction methods currently used in automotive engineering,” said Marco Münster, a DLR Researcher and Head of the UMV project.

Meanwhile, the UMV People Mover 2+2 is an autonomously driving shuttle. DLR says its transport researchers have implemented the UMV People Mover 2+2 variant of the UMV as the first drivable prototype. This vehicle offers space for four people and is intended for use as an autonomous shuttle in urban areas, for example to provide on-demand mobility services. The user summons the vehicle via an app and activates it using an interface in the side window so that the sliding doors open. The interior has a simple design and offers two central monitors with information on travel time, route, and vehicle status. The typical driving time in this context is between eight and 20 minutes. The LiDAR and radar sensors and cameras required for autonomous driving are located on the roof, in the front bumper and in special panels. The current demonstration vehicle is not yet fully autonomous; it is controlled via a sidestick. The researchers want to investigate the concept and user experience as a first step. In the next stage, sensor technology, hardware and software will be integrated for autonomous driving.

The People Mover and Cargo Mover are two of the eight variants of the UMV family. While these two are the only ones with autonomous driving in mind, all are built on a common basis. The length of the floor module can be adjusted, and the front and rear modules are common to all variants. The center of the vehicle changes depending on the intended use. The use of multi-material construction and function integration ensures that the body structure of all variants is optimally adapted to electric propulsion and offers a high level of crash safety. An overall energy management system coordinates and directs the energy flows of the interior, battery, and electric motor with the goal of creating an optimum operating strategy.