Schorndorf Real-World Laboratory

Between 2016 and 2019, the Schorndorf real-world laboratory research project developed a needs-based and user-oriented system for local public transport in which the desire to travel was communicated by the user via smartphone, Internet or telephone, and the bus route was managed efficiently and flexibly according to the journeys desired by the users. In parallel, a vehicle concept was created with the crucial participation of the former Faculty of Automotive Engineering at Esslingen University of Applied Sciences which took special account of the changed constraints resulting from the needs-based approach.


Schorndorf is a medium-sized town typical for the Stuttgart conurbation with around 40,000 inhabitants and a high proportion of car traffic. Three inner-city bus routes transport commuters and pupils in the early morning and after work/school, and late morning and in the afternoon they carry residents every 30 or 60 minutes between the central train station and shopping district and the neighbouring residential areas. These are mainly older people or a parent with younger children.

During the rush hour, the big buses are full; off-peak they are largely empty as they travel between densely packed residential developments, and passengers sometimes have to wait a long time for a bus and when changing buses. This makes local public transport unattractive for users and residents when compared to private means of transport.

The object of the project is to develop a new concept to answer the following questions:

  •     How can the attractiveness of public transport be increased ?
  •     How can users become co-designers in the development process and be continuously involved ?
  •     What can a user concept for public transport that is adapted to the needs of the users look like ?
  •     What could an innovative vehicle look like for use in the new operating concept ?

In real-world laboratories, research and development is carried out directly in real life - scientists, practitioners and society work together to research problems, develop solutions and test them in a real environment.  

Since the beginning of 2015, these novel models have been funded by the Ministry of Science of the State of Baden Württemberg with a total of 15 million euros. The Schorndorf Real Laboratory receives approximately 1.2 million euros over a period of three years from the funding programme Real-World Laboratory City.


In the "Real-world Laboratory" project, the Faculty of Automotive Engineering at Esslingen University of Applied Sciences is collaborating with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Research (ZIRIUS) at Stuttgart University, Mercedes-Benz Vans, the city of Schorndorf, the bus operator Knauss Linienbusse and the Transport and Tariff Association Stuttgart (Verkehrs- und Tarifverbund Stuttgart VVS) as well as the citizens of Schorndorf within the framework of participation. The project is coordinated by the German Aerospace Center DLR. A project advisory board accompanies the project.

The interdisciplinary project Reallabor Schorndorf consists of three sub-projects.

Sub-project Participation - How can the citizens of Schorndorf continuously shape the development process?

The citizens of Schorndorf as "co-designers" are already involved in the project during the definition of requirements and continuously accompany the development of operating and vehicle concepts throughout the entire project. This is done through workshops, discussions and experiments, surveys and information stands as well as during the introduction, testing and evaluation of the concepts in test operation.

Operating concept subproject - How does a user-oriented operating concept in public transport work?

Via a smartphone app, the Internet or by telephone, the passenger announces his or her desired journey with departure and destination as well as departure and arrival times and special requirements such as barrier-free vehicle access. The system calculates the most efficient route possible with customer-friendly short waiting and travel times as well as environmentally friendly and economical vehicle utilisation.

Subproject Vehicle Concept - What form does an innovative vehicle concept have that is adapted to the needs of public transport?

At the beginning of the research project, the subproject deals with the provision of vehicles for test operation in Schorndorf. For the user-controlled operation and control concept of the future, an innovative, demand-oriented vehicle concept will be developed together with the DLR Institute for Vehicle Concepts and the future users.


The novel software-based operating concept was developed in the course of 2017 and tested in initial test runs. It was introduced into the needs-based scheduled service and hence into actual operation with the timetable change 2017/18. People’s experiences with the vehicles in the current scheduled service are to be collated over the coming months.

The concept phase is due to end soon; for the next part of the project, the results available are initially to be evaluated and the requirements examined, if necessary. A valuable and novel aspect of this process is particularly the involvement of the public and vehicle users through the “Participation” subproject. In the middle of 2017, the transition into the draft phase and thus the drawing up and detailing of selected concepts will take place. In the concluding phase of the project from 2018, models of the solutions drawn up are to be created on suitable scales (1:10 or 1:1).

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