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Self-Driving Buses Take to the Busy Streets in Helsinki

Commuters and motorists in Helsinki’s Hernesaari will be seeing a pair of driverless mini-buses driving through traffic in the area as the municipality tests robotic buses through mid-September. The EasyMile minibuses have been previously tested on public roads in Finland and elsewhere though this will be the first time they will be mixed up with everyday traffic. The buses have a carrying capacity of up to 12 people and will be travelling at 10Km/h though they have a maximum speed of 40km/h.

Finish Law does not require a driver to have a vehicle, making it an ideal test bed for some kinds of self-driving technologies. According to Harri Santamala, the project test lead and the Metropolia University of Applied Science, testing of the buses on streets is a really big deal right now. There is no more than a handful of this kind of street traffic trials being conducted worldwide.

While Helsinki is one of the first cities to allow self-driving buses on the streets, it is the second Finnish city to do so. Last year Vantaa rolled out similar vehicles, though they were tested on routes shut off from other traffic at the time. Santamala considers the trials in Hernesaari to be a challenging traffic environment because it is constantly changing.

According to Metropolia project leader, the self-driving buses could be used to supplement existing public transportation options. The E10 buses are designed for short-range shuttling of people for instance between a bus stop and a train station. The automated buses would know when the connecting service would arrive and would get there on time. The buses would make it cheaper for residents to commute into higher-volume transport systems.

The city had tried a system with a similar purpose as the bus that was referred to as Kutsuplus. It was a run smart transport service that integrated a smartphone riding-hailing app, public transportation, and mobile payment to allow the commuter to move around the city. The service was only operational for just a year and a half before Helsinki Regional Transport decided to do away with it due to excessive cost in light of the low passage volumes.

Featured Image Credit:theguardian

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