You may wonder, when can I plan my trip on a self-driving bus or ride in a driverless car? While many automotive companies still compete to release their first driverless car. They may have overlooked the significant changes happening in the Netherlands public transportation system.
Beginning May of this year, two towns in the province of Gelderland are ready to welcome a public driverless bus system known as WEpods. The name stems from a combination of the cities Wageningen and Ede who are adopting the system. After two months of test runs on a 200 meter stretch of public road, the system will begin transporting humans in May of this year.
Visitors will soon be able to travel to a local university in a six-passenger vehicle that resembles an over-sized golf cart. Rather than have these electrically powered buses run on tracks, these driverless buses will be cruising on the same roadways used by humans.
Engineers were able to move forward quickly by keeping minimal parties involved on the project. The system passed testing, approval, and became road-ready in less than two years.
The project by a group of provincial officials, technology firms, and schools began with a call to Google. After hearing from Google that there was no use for the group’s autonomous shuttle-bus technology. The pioneers decided to develop it themselves. They obtained funding from the province and are considering an open-source project. Which means other companies can utilize it in the future.
With the combined efforts of the Technical University of Delft and a robotics manufacturer known as EasyMile, the group was able to modify the original vehicles and equip them with a guidance system and radar.
The team faced challenges similar to the driverless car developments. Such as accounting for pedestrians, responding to traffic lights. As well as reacting to natural occurrences such as trees blowing in the wind. After many experiments and test runs, they were able to establish a guidance system that was approved by the local authorities.
So, when can I plan my trip on a self-driving bus? WEpods will be introducing later this spring. Guests to the University will use an iPhone app to schedule a comfortable ride to and from campus. While the system will serve a short route, its performance may build the foundation for improved efficiency in public transportation across the globe.