The RobobusLine project is preparing for commercially viable automated bus operation, which is projected to start in three years’ time
An autonomous minibus is operating a regular scheduled service in normal traffic on public roads in the Kivikko district of Helsinki, Finland.
The electric minibus, supplied by French technology company Navya to the Helsinki RobobusLine project, accepted the first passengers this week and according to the city transportation authorities it paves the way for a commercially viable automated bus operation to start in three years’ time.
The Helsinki RobobusLine project studies the long-term usability and the maturity of the automated minibus technology in real traffic conditions and as part of public transit services.
The self-driving minibus will operate for six months over the summer and fall of 2018. It runs three to six times an hour between 9am and 3pm on weekdays, carrying passengers from a bus stop of a regular Helsinki transit line to a sports park.
Typically, last-mile routes like this cannot be operated viably with conventional buses but could become commercially feasible with driverless buses.
Helsinki RobobusLine complements the network of Helsinki’s metropolitan public transit authority Helsinki Region Transport (HSL). Its line number is 94R (R for robot), destination Kivikko Sports Park. Line 94R is incorporated into the Helsinki region transport’s journey planner.
“One of the main goals of the project is to provide an innovation platform for enterprises to produce a consortium who can develop automated bus operation into a commercially viable option for Helsinki Region Transport in the last-mile service – taking riders from a public transit station to stops near their homes and offices,” said Eetu Rutanen, the Helsinki RobobusLine project leader of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
The university operates the bus and conducts the project with support from the city of Helsinki and the European Union.
“We study user behaviour, for example, how likely people are to opt for public transit rather than drive when there is a public transit option available for the last mile. Lengthy distances to public transit stations are often the reason for opting for a private car,” he continued.
The Helsinki RobobusLine project is one of the smart mobility projects in Helsinki designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transportation with electric vehicles and increased use of sustainable public transportation. Helsinki has announced a plan to become carbon neutral by 2035. Helsinki Region Transport plans to eliminate fossil fuels by 2021.
Helsinki RobobusLine follows Metropolia’s Sohjoa project, which has tested two self-driving EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses in public places in Helsinki and other Finnish cities over the past two years. The Sohjoa project will be closed in late May 2018, after final test runs at the Suvilahti cultural centre in Helsinki.
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