The first fully autonomous driverless bus for mass transportation is here! Mercedes Benz has revealed its design for an autonomous bus (called Future Bus), which recently made its first self-driven journey along a 20-kilometre-long route in the Netherlands. You can watch a video regarding the Future Bus here.
The Future Bus was designed for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Europe. The vehicle, which doesn’t look all that different from modern buses, can operate autonomously up to 43.5 mph and bring itself to a halt literally on a dime at bus stops.
The technology of the CityPilot in the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus is based on that of the autonomously driving Mercedes-Benz Actros truck. The CityPilot is able to recognise traffic lights, communicate with them and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. It can also recognise obstacles, especially pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously. It approaches bus stops automatically, where it opens and closes its doors. And not least, it is able to drive through tunnels. Just under a dozen cameras scan the road and surroundings, while long and short-range radar systems constantly monitor the route ahead. There is also a GPS system. Thanks to data fusion, all the data received create an extremely precise picture and allow the bus to be positioned to within centimetres.
Still, for several reasons, a driver remains on board to monitor the system and take over when the route isn’t suitable for autonomous mode. When conditions do allow it, the operator simply pushes the CityPilot button and lets the bus drive itself. Any steering, accelerator, or brake input immediately puts the driver back in control. The Future Bus also uses vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and is able to determine what pace it needs to keep to hit the most green lights. Like many modern Mercedes models, the Future Bus features automatic emergency braking.
Combine this with two recent similar news.
First, the arrival of a 3D printed driverless bus (powered by IBM’s Watson and produced by Local Motors) that is ready to offer services. Second, the fact that Uber is already testing a driverless taxi in Pittsburgh.
Well, what do you think? If we can easily, safely and with less emissions transfer people, how far are we from the first commercially available driverless (and maybe workerless as Volvo’s experiment demonstrated)garbage truck? Not that much I bet…