"Life is movement and without movement, life itself cannot take place." Leonardo da Vinci's finding is becoming more topical than probably ever before in times of increasingly networked global markets and growing individual demand for mobility. Powerful, reliable, safe and secure traffic links are a necessary prerequisite, in order to satisfy the needs of industry, trade and commerce, as well as private individuals. Thus, the transport sector alone has a volume of about 1,200 billion euros corresponding to a 10 percent share of the gross domestic product, and provides almost 11 million jobs. Furthermore, if the value added gained from the production of vehicles as well as from the construction of transport infrastructures is also included, the enormous economic significance, which goes far beyond a pure sector-specific consideration, becomes clear. For Germany, as one of the world's leading export nations, this applies to a particular extent.
However, the European transport network guarantees anything but free flow of traffic. Traffic jams along 7,500 kilometers obstruct the traffic on Europe's main roads. The European rail traffic comes up to its capacity limits on 16,000 kilometers of infrastructure. Capacity-related bottlenecks, holding patterns and delays are commonplace in air travel. But that’s not all. Noise and exhaust emissions of motor-driven vehicles affect the quality of life in urban agglomerations as well as in other congested areas, effects on the climate are no longer being called into question. Moreover, the reserves of fossil energy resources are limited, the dependence on the oil-producing countries is high. And despite the clear fall in recent years, more than 32,000 people still die in road traffic accidents in the European countries every year, and countless are injured.
These significant problems are the consequence of decades of tangible increases in passenger as well as freight transport in Europe. Their negative impacts can meanwhile no longer be overlooked. A radical turnabout of this trend is neither to be expected in regards of the development of commercial transport demand, nor is a change of individual mobility behavior in sight. On the contrary: Based on the reference year 2005, the European Commission estimates the European passenger transport to increase by 34 percent until 2030. Until 2050, they expect a growth of 51 percent. In freight transport, an increase of 40 percent until 2030, respectively by 80 percent until 2050 is assumed. In particular, Germany as a transit country sees itself confronted also in future with significantly increasing traffic volumes due to its central location in the heart of Europe.
The problems already existing for all modes of transport today, will, with the incidence of the predicted developments, get even worse, especially since the demand-oriented expansion of the transport network hardly appears possible for economic and ecological reasons. Therefore, from the perspective of the researchers working in the DLR’s Transport Programme the tensions between mobility demands and negative mobility effects have to be overcome as far as possible, thus, realizing sustainable mobility in a balance of interests between economy, society, and the environment. To be able to achieve this ambitious goal, it is necessary, in particular to
reduce the energy demands of road, rail, air, and maritime vehicles,
avoid harmful emissions, in particular, CO2, NOX, soot and noise,
raise safety, security, reliability, and comfort,
use existing infrastructures more efficiently, and
improve multimodal transport chains.
DLR's Transport Programme provides important contributions to this aim through researching and developing state-of-the-art transport technologies, concepts and strategies. In so doing, we pursue a concerted, systemic approach, which also exploits DLR internal know-how in 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:
DLR's research focus concentrates on cars, commercial vehicles and trains of the next and next but one generation with lower energy consumption levels, lighter structures, optimized aerodynamics, better safety, better comfort and less noise. With innovative approaches towards the management of road, rail, and maritime traffic as well as airports effectiveness and efficiency of infrastructural use are improved. The problem-solving contributions on traffic management at public mass events and disasters support the police and relief organizations. By taking integral consideration of the transport development and environmental impact, the DLR researchers break new ground in investigating the transport system. For the national and European community, DLR's Clearing House for Transport Data is additionally operating as a service provider.
The programmatic structure of DLR’s Transport Programme is deliberately robust and designed for a long-term perspective. Though, it is adequately flexible for addressing new topics at short notice. To research the topics of our portfolio beyond pure transport-related know-how we open up DLR-internal competencies from aeronautics, space, and energy, and thereby ensure problem-oriented results by using innovative high-technology. The collaboration that results from this with a total of 25 DLR institutes and the ease of information flows allow us to work systemically also on cross-cutting topics of great complexity. Of particular importance for us in this context is the research being done on electromobility and on urban mobility.
In our research work we always bear concrete application and utilization aspects in our mind. Thereby, we take on a bridging role spanning from basic research through technologies of the future to economically viable innovations. Public funding and placing the entire Transport Programme under the umbrella of the DLR enables us to ideally develop and systematically benefit from our strengths as a large-scale research center: Long-term top-level research on complex systems, sub-systems, and components; exploitation of DLR in-house synergies, solution-oriented, interdisciplinary and work-sharing approaches; development, use, and operation of transport-specific large-scale research infrastructures.
In so doing, we do not proceed isolated from others, but rather, actively search for strategic cooperation and programmatic coordination with outstanding research groups and leading industrial companies in Germany, Europe and beyond. We introduce our competencies into national and European networks, design and shape technology platforms and associations through our contribution, and represent the interests of research institutions in decision-making bodies and organizations. In close collaboration with our partners we therefore contribute to the success of the German and European industry and science in the face of global competition.