Germany Will Integrate Autonomous Cars Into National Train Network

Europe's biggest railway wants a fleet of self-driving cars. It could fundamentally change the landscape of tech and transportation.

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You’re probably familiar with park n’ ride schemes, those handy garages and lots at the train station. Drive there, drop a car off, then hop on the local light- or high-speed rail. Simple enough, but Germany thinks it can make that process even easier. Deutsche Bahn, the country’s government-owned national transit network, wants to integrate autonomous vehicles to its system. The idea: a seamless, door-to-door transportation experience. The ride n’ ride era may soon be upon us.

That news comes straight from Deutsche Bahn CEO Reedier Grube. In an interview published in WirtschaftsWoche, Grube revealed that he's pushing for a fleet of self-driving cars to ferry passengers from their home to the departing train station, and then from arriving station to final destination. Full, multimodal, end-to-end service. According to Grube, Deutsche Bahn "will, with certainty, operate driverless cars in the future,” adding:

"If in the future autonomous cars can do this, then the operators of these cars can claim the same about their services. That's why we will have to add autonomously driving cars to our offering.”

Stateside, companies like Amtrak run promotional deals with the likes of Uber and Lyft. But the idea of integrating autonomous cars into the national transit network, like the scheme Deutsche Bahn is working on, is unprecedented. It's a big deal, too: This is Europe's largest railway, responsible for moving seven million train passengers each day. If even a fraction of them were to use an autonomous shuttle service, it could fundamentally change the tech and transportation landscape. Grube’s plan is still in its infancy, partnering with a domestic car manufacturer (Mercedes and Audi are both at the forefront of self-driving tech) seems logical. Keep an eye out for announcements involving Deutsche Bahn and a German automaker in the future.