The world’s first autonomous bus made its debut on a pilot run through a major European capital city this week.
The Future Bus, from Mercedes-Benz, successfully drove itself 12 miles from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport in the Netherlands to the town of Haarlem, using a system called CityPilot.
The bus is the German company’s vision for public transportation in the future and uses cameras, radar and connected data to drive itself. The CityPilot system uses essentially the same technology as HighwayPilot, a system which it developed on the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck, first seen in 2014.
Citypilot is refined to enable it to navigate busy areas, and is able to recognise traffic lights, communicate with them and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. It can also recognise obstacles such as pedestrians and cyclists on the road, and brake autonomously. At bus stops, it automatically opens and closes its doors, and can drive through tunnels with no loss of GPS communication.
A total of 11 cameras scan the road and surroundings, while long and short-range radar systems constantly monitor the route ahead. Using data fusion, which brings together GPS, radar, 3 and 4G and the camera data, the bus can be positioned on the road to within centimetres.
To prove it, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated the Future Bus, which is just less than 40 feet long and based on the Citaro low roof single decker, on Europe’s longest rapid transport bus route – the 12 miles from Amsterdam Schipol to Haarlem, which includes a number of tight bends, tunnels, numerous bus stops and high speeds for a city bus, as well as the more traditional urban hazards.
Mercedes-Benz says the driver only needs to take control when the bus faces oncoming traffic, in line with local laws, and does not need to intervene in any way, though he or she remains in place at all times.