Daimler's autonomous bus has completed a 20-km route in Amsterdam without any human input.
Two years ago, Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the Future Truck 2025 concept, which came equipped with an autonomous Highway Pilot assistance system allowing the truck to drive itself at speeds up to 85 kilometres per hour (53 miles per hour). Now, that technology has been adapted for city use and has been implemented in the Future Bus which features a CityPilot system allowing the bus to work autonomously at up to 70 km/h (43.5 mph).
To prove the capabilities of its driverless bus, Mercedes conducted a demonstration in Amsterdam on a section of the longest bus rapid transit (BRT) line in Europe. The Future Bus was able to operate itself on the entire 20-km route, stopping at bus stops and traffic lights, braking whenever there was an obstacle, passing through tunnels, and opening and closing the doors at every bus stop. Just to be on the safe side, a person was still on board to monitor the autonomous bus as it maneuvered itself through traffic.
This was all possible by installing both short- and long-range radars that worked together with a number of cameras and a built-in GPS. In addition, Mercedes’ Future Bus is smart enough to communicate via Wi-Fi with the infrastructure and can learn the status of the traffic lights, so it can take full advantage of a green wave of coordinated lights.
Daimler Buses explains the first step that needs to be taken in order to enable entirely automated city bus driving is to have BRT lines featuring separate lanes. The person behind the wheel can operate the bus as usual on a normal road and then switch to CityPilot whenever there is a route suitable for automated driving.
Today’s buses are mostly on the boring side in terms of exterior and interior design, but this one certainly has what it takes to convince more people to leave their cars at home and take public transport. It’s only a concept for now, but it does signal a bright future for city transit, one that Daimler promises will be greener and safer thanks to automated driving.