In the month-long trial, the buses will transport up to nine passengers on a short fixed route, sharing the road with normal traffic. It looks like a minibus and moves like a minibus. But a closer look reveals why this vehicle is turning heads on the streets of Espoo, Finland: there's no driver. The presence of these electric vehicles in Espoo is because it's the location for one of the first pilot projects in the world to trial the use of self-driving buses on open public roads, offering passengers free transport. "There have been some experiments on public roads, but still so few that we need a lot more experience with it to really move [development] forward," says Harri Santamala, manager of the pilot project at Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
The city of Helsinki, in Finland, is currently testing a pair of self-driving buses "in the wild," if you will -- that is, on active city streets. "This is actually a really big deal right now," the project's leader, Harri Santamala, told Finnish news outlet Uutiset. The tests are among the first in the world, according to Uutiset, because Finnish law doesn't mandate that a vehicle on the streets have a driver. The buses, which will be on the road till mid-September, could one day supplement existing public transit by shuttling riders to major lines. They're not exactly speed demons though.
They may look more like small caravans, but these four wheeled vehicles are really driverless buses. A pair of the vehicles will be hitting the streets of Helsinki, thanks to Finland's laws allowing cars to roam without a driver. The EasyMile autonomous mini-buses will be navigating the city from mid-September. They may look more like small caravans, but these four wheeled vehicles are really driverless buses. A pair of the vehicles will be hitting the streets of Helsinki, thanks to Finland's laws allowing cars to roam without a driver The buses are amongt the first in the world, which have recently been given the go-ahead by transport safety authorities.
A driverless shuttle bus crashed less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The city's officials had been hosting an unveiling ceremony for the bus, described as the US' first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared towards the public, before it crashed with a semi-truck. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the human driver of the other vehicle was at fault, there were no injuries, and the incident caused minor damage. The oval-shaped shuttle -- sponsored by AAA, the Review-Journal added -- can transport up to 12 passengers at a time. It has an attendant and a computer monitor, and uses GPS and electric curb sensors instead of brakes or a steering wheel.
The media circus around driverless cars and their safety and ease of use could be distracting us from a more realistic technology -- driverless buses. These are already running in several locations. In California, a bus made by French company EasyMile is due to come into public service in the next year. There have already been several demonstration runs in Canada. At London Heathrow, four-person driverless pods have been shuttling passengers between Terminal 5 and a car park since 2011, which in driverless technology terms is practically the Jurassic age.