The city of Helsinki has announced the launch of a self-driving bus line that will integrate into the city’s regular transportation service. The service, known as the Helsinki RoboBusLine, is the second phase of a three-year experimentation with autonomous buses as part of the Sohjoa project, an EU-financed venture by the six largest cities of Finland, Finnish universities, and transportation authorities to prepare for new public transit services and autonomous vehicles.
The first phase of the project, debuted in August of last year, saw the implementation of two self-driving electric minibuses capable of traveling at just 11 kilometers per hour, and with an operator on board in case of emergency. The RoboBusLine will take the next step, allowing the bus to travel like a more traditional bus.
Metropolia’s smart mobility program director Harri Santamala, the current project leader, explains: “RoboBus will allow us to test operation in everyday public transit conditions. It will be used to study the long-term operability of self-driving buses and customer behavior.”
The RoboBusLine will use and updated version of the electric minibus vehicle, with a competitive bid process for its production currently in progress. A full route and a more specific launch date will be announcer later this year.
“One of the factors that make Finland a forerunner in self-driving vehicle operation is Finnish law, which does not state that a vehicle has to have a driver,” a spokesperson for the city noted in a press release.
“Self-driving buses could offer a solution to the last mile of public transit in Helsinki – taking riders from a regular public transit stop to their homes. Automated, remote-controlled bus service could markedly reduce the costs of the last-mile service and improve access to public transit. The ultimate goal is to increase public transit use and so to reduce cars and needs to drive in the city.”
Learn more about the Sohjoa project, here.
The driverless car future could be just around the corner, and the normally slow-changing infrastructure of cities could be forced to apply quick fixes to adapt. At the same time, the full potential of driverless cars cannot be realized without implementing significant changes to the urban fabric.