Autonomous Public Bus Takes Off in Germany
Being an innovation hub of Europe, Germany has made impressive strides in the field of science, technology, and engineering. We all know that Germany is the home to several illustrious automobile corporations, such as Mercedes-Benz, Bavarian Motor Works (BMW), Porsche, Volkswagen, and Audi.
But Germany and its love affair with automotive technology has taken a step forward. Recently, Germany inaugurated its first-ever autonomous minibus as a mode of public transport - a model which could shape the future of public transport.
"We've just driven autonomously into a new era of transport," expressed Deutsche Bahn CEO Richard Lutz. Deutsche Bahn, the German railway giant, has introduced this new line of public transport to the public in late 2017 - this service is free of cost (for now). The driverless bus, EasyTen, was developed by EasyMile - a tech startup specialized in designing autonomous vehicles. EasyTen is operated by an artificial intelligence driver system - it utilizes sensors, lasers, and GPS systems for navigation. This fully electric-powered bus has the capability of auto-driving at 15 kilometers per hour (roughly 9 miles per hour) on a pre-programmed route in the small German town of Bavaria. If the vehicle detects an obstacle in front of it, it can effectively activate the braking system. The engineers behind the autonomous EasyTen bus designed it such that even if it is met with a technical or vehicular accident, it can be operated. An emergency joystick can control the bus. However, the bus is not yet capable of maneuvering around obstructions on its own. For example, if a car is wrongly parked or is an obstruction on the pre-set bus path, a passenger needs to turn the vehicle using the joystick. Nonetheless, EasyMile plans to further develop this model by increasing the size of the bus so it can hold more passengers, enhancing the artificial intelligence systems so that they can maneuver around obstacles, adding more safety features so accidents can be avoided, and eventually boosting maximum speed of the vehicle.
As autonomous transport is gaining popularity in Germany, Deutsche Bahn intends to expand this service in the near future by adding lines in larger cities. Several other cities around the world are also following this driverless public transport model, Dubai, Las Vegas, Paris, and Lyon to name a few. Germany envisions a future in which the driverless minibus system could replace cars and taxi services as the preferred mode of transport.
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