If you’re taking the bus in Helsinki over the next few weeks, you could be in for a shock. The Hernesaari district of the Finnish capital has begun rolling out driverless buses.
Called the EZ10, these buses are designed by EasyMile, a joint venture between French car manufacturer Ligier Group and Indian robotics firm Robosoft Technologies.
They carry about nine passengers at capacity, and travel at only 10 kilometres per hour. A professional is also always on board, watching the driverless bus to ensure nothing goes wrong.
The Metropolia University Applied Science in association with SOHJOA-6Aika (a Finnish cities collaborative group) is behind the trial, which is said to continue into mid-September. So far only two buses have been released into Finnish traffic.
"This is actually a really big deal right now. There’s no more than a handful of these kinds of street traffic trials taking place, if that," the project’s manager, Harri Santamala, tells Finnish news outlet YLE.
Though a similar trial took place in the neighbouring Finnish city of Vantaa, Santamala believes this new trial could reveal more about the buses' capabilities. The traffic in Helsinki is less predictable than in Vantaa, and therefore more challenging for the robot buses to navigate.
Hopes are the buses will eventually be able to travel much faster, while still providing a safe and reliable public transport service to patrons.
"Their purpose is to supplement but not to replace [current public transport],” explains Santamala.
“For example the goal could be to use them as a feeder service for high-volume bus or metro traffic, like Kutsuplus. In other words the mini-bus would know when the connecting service is coming and it would get you there on time.”