The transport sector is a cornerstone of Germany's industrialised economy. It satisfies individual mobility needs, provides employment and makes up a significant share of the net economic added value. On the other hand, transport has some adverse effects. Noise and exhaust emissions harm the population and the environment and large numbers of people are victims of traffic accidents. From the tense relationship between the demands for mobility and its negative effects, the need arises for an intensive examination of current and future problems in the transport sector. DLR has taken up this challenge.
Every day, 7 500 kilometres of traffic jams obstruct the free flow of traffic on Europe's main roads. At the same time, European rail traffic reaches its limits on 16 000 kilometres of track. Capacity-related bottlenecks and delays are commonplace in air travel. However, congestion is not the only problem: noise and exhaust emissions from motor vehicles impair the quality of life in congested areas and hardly anyone now doubts the negative effect of vehicle emissions on the climate. Additionally, every year, more than 40 000 people are killed in road accidents in Europe alone.
These traffic problems are the result of a noticeable increase in passenger and freight transport over the last few decades. In particular Germany, which is a transit country, sees itself confronted with significantly growing traffic volumes owing to its location in the heart of Europe. The problems that are already affecting all modes of transport will increase with the predicted traffic growth, especially because an expansion of the transport network adequate to meet demand appears unlikely due to economic and ecological constraints. However, fast, reliable, safe and secure transport connections are a necessary prerequisite for facilitating economic growth. At approximately 1 000 billion Euros, the transport sector has a share of over 10% of the gross domestic product of the European Union and provides more than ten million jobs. Added to this is the overall economic importance of transport, which specifically applies to Germany as one of the world's leading export nations.
Mobility without bottlenecks has therefore become a real economic concern for industry. It also addresses the widely varying individual needs that are typical of the way of life in modern societies. There are no signs of radical trend reversals either regarding the development of demand for commercial transport or regarding individual mobility behaviour. According to the researchers from DLR's Transport Business Area, three central challenges arise from the tense relationship between the demands for mobility and the negative effects of mobility: securing mobility for people and goods, protecting the environment and preserving resources, and improving safety and security.
These challenges cannot be met by simply expanding the existing infrastructure or liberalising transport markets. In order to build a sustainable, viable transport system, economic, ecological and societal concerns must be brought into a stable balance. DLR's Transport Business Area provides important contributions to this aim through researching and developing state-of-the-art transport technologies, concepts and strategies. The business area uses its specific transport expertise to systematically access DLR internal know-how in the areas of aeronautics, space and energy for transport applications. This symbiosis, which is unique in Germany, ensures problem-oriented results using innovative and sophisticated technologies. Research efforts are concentrated on the following three programme topics:
- Terrestrial Vehicles,
- Traffic Management and
- Transport System.
DLR's research focuses on next generation cars, commercial vehicles, trains and locomotives, with lower energy consumption, lighter structures, optimised aerodynamics, increased safety, better comfort and less noise. The effectiveness and efficiency of infrastructure utilisation is improved with innovative approaches to managing road and rail traffic as well as airports. DLR’s contributions to traffic management for public mass events and disasters support the police and emergency services. The Transport Business Area is breaking new ground in transport system evaluation by taking an integrated view of transport development and environmental impact.
During the research, DLR scientists and engineers keep concrete applications firmly in sight. A bridge is therefore formed from basic research through future technologies to economically viable innovations. DLR’s Transport Business Area does not work in isolation but seeks strategic cooperation and coordination with outstanding research groups and leading companies in Germany and in other European countries. The business area also incorporates its skills into national and European networks, contributes to developing technology platforms and represents the interests of research institutions in panels and associations. By working closely together with its partners, DLR therefore contributes towards the success of the German and European economy and science in the face of global competition.