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Modular, autonomous vehicle concept of the future

The aim of the autonomous, driverless and electric vehicle project is to enable a new type of modularity and thus also new intermodality, new products and business models by separating the driving module and the transport capsule

© e-mobil BW / KD Busch

Objectives and approach

The driving module can be used in combination with different types of capsules to transport both people and goods. Examples of applications include autonomous, electromobile night delivery, autonomous intra-logistics and barrier-free passenger transport.

In the project "U-Shift I - Mock-Up", a 1:1 demonstration model of the innovative modular vehicle was developed and produced. It was presented in September 2020 at the digital conference of the Strategic Dialogue for the Automotive Sector in Baden-Württemberg. In the follow-up project "U-Shift II - Demonstrator", the modular vehicle will be tested in a closed-off area in order to research and work on the development as well as the product maturity for the market launch.


The technical development of the vehicle is accompanied by a dialogue with citizens. The project team provides insights into the development and takes on board ideas from civil society. The focus is on possible applications and future visions of the U-Shift vehicle.


Innovations and perspectives

The autonomous drive module, known as the "driveboard", integrates all components and systems necessary for driving. In addition to the electric drive, battery and automation components, this is an integrated lifting system for the simple and quick exchange of different types of capsules. The capsules are changed "on-the-road", i.e. during operation, to enable new transport and mobility services. This results in the following advantages:

  • Autonomous (SAE Level 5), flexible, standardisable
  • Electric drive system
  • High utilisation rates (24/7) and low-noise night operation
Das Fahrzeugkonzept U-Shift ist modular, autonom fahrend und elektrisch angetrieben.
© DLR / CC-BY 3.0

The capsules are only equipped with the most necessary technical equipment and can therefore be produced cost-efficiently. This results in further advantages:

  • Individualised and flexible
  • Demand-oriented: Use of a wide variety of capsules in passenger transport (people mover, private capsule) and in commercial transport (delivery transport, service, recyclables capsule).
  • "Simple", light and cost-efficient

Automation is much more closely linked to the infrastructure than today's Cooperative Automated Driving (CAD) approaches. U-Shift uses the next level of automation - Managed Automated Driving (MAD). Key elements for this are:

  • Protection via infrastructure sensors
  • Management via traffic control centre
  • Optimised use of road infrastructure


Project profile 

Network coordinator:

Federal Republic of Germany's research centre for aeronautics and space (DLR): Institute of Vehicle Concepts

Project duration:

U-Shift I: 10/2019 – 12/2020

U-Shift II: 04/2020 – 12/2024

Project partner:

  • The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT):Institute for Information Processing Technology (ITIV)
  • The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT):Institute of Vehicle Systems Technology (FAST)
  • Ulm University: Institute of Measurement, Control and Microtechnology (MRM)
  • additionally for U-Shift II: Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS)

The project is funded by the Ministry of Economics, Labour and Tourism Baden-Württemberg.