The ULTIMO project is unique in many ways, one of them being our 23-strong consortium. The ULTIMO partners each bring their own strengths and knowledge to the table – safe to say we want you to meet them! 

How to better start than with our Coordinator? While we wrap-up Year 1 of ULTIMO, we asked Lars Abeler (Deutsche Bahn) about how he looks back on what we have already achieved, the ULTIMO vision, and what’s up for Year 2. 

As Project Coordinator, how do you look back on the first year of ULTIMO? 

In the first year of the ULTIMO project, our focus was on evaluating the status quo. We took a deep dive into the current state of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) applications in the project’s deployment sites (Oslo, Geneva and Herford). We examined their features, usability, and how they are currently serving the needs of users. We also explored which interfaces could be standardised to ensure seamless integration and interoperability between different systems and services. This standardisation is crucial for creating a unified and efficient MaaS ecosystem that – at a later stage – integrates automated vehicles (AVs). These were among the many questions we grappled with. The insights gained from these evaluations have been invaluable in shaping our project goals and strategies. They have helped us identify gaps, understand user needs better, and define a clear path forward for the ULTIMO project.  

On a more personal level, the first year really set the foundations for strong teamwork needed in the next three years. The 23 partners already showed great collaborative spirit which showed in achievements such as important citizen engagement, our first vehicles arriving in Oslo, many events attended, and many hours of brainstorming.  

Can you explain what is the innovation behind the project?  

The ULTIMO project is a groundbreaking innovation action set to revolutionise public transportation across Europe. Its key innovation lies in the potential deployment of automated vehicles on a large scale, enabled by standardisations that facilitate rapid integration into fleets and MaaS systems. The project also focuses on developing services that ensure inclusive operations for all users. Furthermore, by testing different business models, it lays the foundation for Public Transport Operators/Authorities (PTOs/PTAs) to afford larger fleets, thereby accelerating the transition towards autonomous public transportation. 

In what aspect do you expect ULTIMO to have the biggest impact? 

ULTIMO aims to advance the development of automated vehicles in public transport to the point where, upon its completion, a transition from research and funding projects to a real operation of automated vehicles in Europe is possible. Furthermore, in combination with MaaS platforms and other transport options, these automated vehicles could form a viable alternative to private cars. So the greatest impact of the project will be the acceleration of the deployment of automated vehicles across Europe, and where they become a true part of the public transport network. In the end, the automated vehicles are a tool to create a more inclusive, efficient and sustainable mobility future.  

What do you expect from ULTIMO in Year 2? 

After the first year, where we mainly looked at which gaps we still need to close and which additional services are needed, it is now a question of working on the automated mobility solutions to close the gaps. In our second year, we anticipate seeing the first vehicles in three project sites hit the road. This marks a transition from theoretical considerations to tangible experiences. Additionally, we will continue to work on standardising additional services, gradually integrating them into existing fleets. This progress underscores our commitment to innovation and practical application, bringing our vision to life one step at a time. We already see this happening in the deployment sites Oslo, where first tests have been held and we’re later in 2024 expect to open up the service to passengers. Geneva and Herford are expected to follow suit in the coming year. So stay tuned! 

Curious to meet the entire ULTIMO Team? Meet everyone here!