Mercedes-Benz just passed a major milestone in autonomous public transportation.
The company’s semi-autonomous bus, called the Future Bus, drove a little more than 12 miles from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to Haarlem, a city just outside Amsterdam. The bus’s journey was especially impressive because the route included traffic lights, tunnels, and required the bus to navigate around people. Mercedes is betting self-driving buses like its Future Bus will grow in demand as urban populations continue to increase and more public transportation is needed.
“We are living in an increasingly urban world. Cities are home to more than 50% of the world’s population. And the number keep increasing rapidly,” said Wolfgang Bernhard, the CEO of Daimler Trucks and Buses, at a press event Monday. “If more and more people eat, sleep, and work in cities, a number of big challenges emerge. One major challenge is to move all of these people and to move them fast, safely, and comfortably. This means we need attractive, public transportation.”
Here’s a closer look at some of the features of Mercedes’ self-driving Future Bus and how it works. Mercedes didn’t have to start from scratch with the Future Bus. The company is a pioneer in autonomous trucks, so the company was able to build upon its Highway Pilot system to create City Pilot, which is the system the bus uses.
The Future Bus with City Pilot can self-drive just like a truck equipped with Highway Pilot. However it can also recognize traffic lights, steer through tunnels, and can recognize pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Future Bus is also programmed to navigate into the bus stop with incredible precision. City Pilot enables the bus to pull in so that there is less than 10 cm between the bus and the curb, making it easy for passengers to get on and off.
Right now, the Mercedes Future Bus has a top speed of 43 miles per hour and is programmed to operate in Bus only lanes. This is because these lanes are usually easier to navigate because traffic is less complex.
To perform such driving tasks, the bus uses camera systems, radar sensors, and GPS.
Mercedes claims the Future Bus is also more fuel efficient than your average city bus operated by a human because the City Pilot system is always braking, accelerating and shifting gears to optimize efficiency.
The experience inside a self-driving bus shouldn’t be the same as the experience in a normal bus, so Mercedes gave its Future Bus an awesome lounge-like design.
The interior of the bus is basically broken down into three seatings areas. One area is designated for people that want to get on and off quickly, the second is for those looking for more information about the route, and the third is designed for those who want to stay on a little longer.
The bus also has WiFi and two 43-inch displays positioned over the overhead console where routes, news, and other information are displayed.
While the Future Bus with City Pilot is incredibly impressive, it should be noted that it’s not completely autonomous. A human driver is still needed to monitor the vehicle’s surroundings. This means the driver is still responsible for the vehicle and can overrule the system at any time.