Mercedes-Benz has been working in a semi-autonomous bus called the Future Bus for use in the city. The Future Bus went on its first test drive in Amsterdam last year when it made a 12-mile journey from the city’s Schipol airport to the city Haarlem. The route required the bus to navigate around people, go through tunnels and respond appropriately to traffic signals.
Mercedes-Benz is betting that increasing urbanization will lead to a greater demand for public transportation like city buses. Wolfgang Bernhard, the CEO of Daimler Trucks and Buses noted, “Cities are home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population… 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.”
Mercedes-Benz has already made self-driving trucks operated by a system called Highway Pilot. They used a modified version of that system called City Pilot to run the buses. City Pilot is designed to recognize traffic lights, pedestrians and cyclists and to navigate through tunnels. The Future Bus is equipped with GPS, radar sensors and cameras.
The Future Bus is also programmed to stop very precisely, so there is less than four inches or ten centimeters between the curb and the bus to make it easier for passengers to embark and disembark. The bus is also programmed to stop, shift gears, and accelerate in a way that maximizes its fuel efficiency.
The Future Bus currently has a top speed of 43 miles per hour and is therefore programmed to travel in Bus Only lanes that have less complicated traffic patterns.
The interior of the Future Bus is designed to resemble a lounge and has three types of seating areas. One is designed for people riding short distances, while another is for people traveling longer distances. A third area gives passengers access to a pair of 43-inch displays that provide news and route information. Riders can also access free Wi-Fi.
The Future Bus is not wholly autonomous. It still has a human driver who can override the system if they deem it necessary.