Self-Driving Public Transport Bus Launched in Helsinki

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

An emerging trend in transportation is the development of autonomous or self-driving vehicles. Tesla, a US-based carmaker led by Elon Musk, has put a lot of research and development in this feature. Even Google and Apple, two of the biggest tech companies right now, are investing in self-driving cars as they believe that this is the future of automotive technology.

Albeit reports on autonomous vehicle-related accidents, the confidence of safer travel through computer-calculated driving is still very high. In fact, this idea had spread out to public transportation as well. Cars are no longer the only vehicles that are being programmed to drive. Even public buses are being made to drive autonomously. Several companies in Europe and China have started rolling out test buses to see how it will perform in the actual scene. Cities in Switzerland, Finland, and China have their own versions of a self-driving bus.

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

The Easymile EZ10   

The most recent launch on self-driving buses is the Easymile. Making its rounds in select areas of the city of Helsinki, the Easymile bus has no actual driver maneuvering the bus. The driver is only there to man the systems and take over as necessary. The specific model, EZ10, is actually powered by electricity and can transport up to 12 people at a time (6 sitting and 6 standing). The EZ10 is way smaller than a traditional bus and the fastest it can go is 6 miles per hour.

France-based manufacturer Ligier, claimed that it was the first time for the EZ10 to hit actual road traffic. The buses were once used before but only within controlled environments. In a tweet sent out by EasyMile, it said, “Aug 16th-Pilot Opening Ceremony w/ Helsinki Deputy Mayor Mr. Pekka! #SOHJOA @Automatedbus – Copyright Metropolia UAS”  

Based on their website, the EZ10 worked in collaboration with Robosoft in developing its driverless technology. As a result, it was able to create “areas of expertise” including:

— Multi-sensors Localisation techniques

— Obstacle detection and avoidance in all conditions,

— Navigation, path planning and control

— Connectivity (V2V, V2I)

— Fleet management

— Safety and cybersecurity.

The EZ10 has three modes of operation of which the driverless technology could be configured:

Metro Mode – where the EZ10 stops at every station

Bus Mode – where the EZ10 stops on stations upon request

On Demand – where the EZ10 acts like a taxi service (point-to-point)

The website currently claims that the EZ10 is operated in the following areas: urban and pedestrian centers, convention centers, transportation hubs, campuses, healthcare hubs, and business parks. Several countries have adopted this technology though including: Finland, Singapore, France, USA, and Switzerland. It is only in Helsinki though where the EZ10 is being used in major thoroughfares of a city.

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

image credit: screenshot from Vimeo video

Other Initiatives

The EZ10 however is not the first self-driving bus to roam the city. Last year, a Mercedes-Benz Future Bus drove from Amsterdam Schipol Airport to the town of Haarlem using CityPilot technology, which is another term for semi-autonomous driving. This one is a full-sized coach with a designated bus driver (who does not drive but only monitor). It’s equipped with motion sensors, cameras, and lasers to help the bus navigate the roads independently.

The one behind the wheel is actually the CityPilot technology which allows the bus to stop, go, communicate with traffic lights, pick up and drop off passengers, avoid obstacles, and even drive through tunnels.   

Yutong, a bus manufacturer in China, also launched their own self-driving program after Mercedes-Benz. And it seems like more will follow in the coming years. What was initially thought as impossible, autonomous driving is now taking bigger strides after successful attempts. It be soon before long when more driverless cars will populate our transportation systems.