According to foreign media reports, in the streets of Helsinki, Finland, a small electric bus is traveling at a speed of 7 miles per hour. When a white van overtakes, the bus slows down – as if the driver were braking, the bus returns to normal speed when the van is out of the way. But the bus has neither brake nor accelerator, nor even steering wheel. In fact, it has no driver, but relies on sensors and software to drive. At present, however, there is still a person in the car to press the red “stop” button in case of emergency.
When the automatic driving starts on the road, most of them are experimental projects, such as taxi service Uber. This year, autopilot car trials in Pittsburgh begin. This bus represents different ways to realize the advanced technology of transportation system. After all, the autopilot is still a car, which can only take a few people at most. Self driving buses help reduce the number of cars that cause road congestion by transporting multiple passengers.
It is not surprising that Helsinki is testing self driving buses, which are at the forefront of efforts to transform the public transport system with technology.
Such autonomous buses are used in non-public controlled environments, such as pulling students on campus or employees in factories. Helsinki was one of the first cities to test so-called autonomous buses on the road. Another similar project in sieyong, Switzerland, has been in operation for months and was suspended for two weeks after a minor accident in September.
Helsinki bus is a cooperative project of several universities, funded by government agencies and the European Union. The project, known as sohjoa, costs $1.2 million over two years and aims to reduce the number of cars, ease traffic congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by cars.
“A positive result is that fewer and fewer people have cars because they no longer really need them,” said Hari santamala, project coordinator and head of a “smart city” project at the City University of Helsinki.
In September, a sohjoa bus began testing on a quarter mile long street, attracting a small number of curious passengers. “The reason we first chose this street to test self driving buses is that we can study a lot of different traffic problems,” Santamara said.
Sohjoa buses are technically less advanced than those developed by Uber, Google and other companies. The buses, produced by a French company, are trained to run on one road. During driving, the bus uses laser sensors and GPS to ensure that it does not deviate from the route.
Although the buses were designed to travel at about 15 miles (25 kilometers) per hour, they were designed to travel at about half the speed they were designed to travel in Helsinki. If there are other vehicles parked side by side with the bus, the bus will not drive until the car leaves first, or the operator uses the control box to operate the bus around other vehicles. “We have to be very concerned about security,” Santamara said
These restrictions make sohjoa buses only provide a mediocre experience at present. When other vehicles are too close to each other or want to overtake due to dissatisfaction with the “slow” speed of the bus, the most exciting characteristics of the bus are shown.
Santamara said the project plans to plan real bus routes in the next two years. There is no reason why autonomous driving cannot be applied to larger buses.
Currently, the project focuses on so-called last mile Services – pulling passengers from traditional bus stops to locations closer to their homes, shops, offices or schools. Faster self driving buses may be better able to meet the requirements.
“It doesn’t require the driver to hold the steering wheel or even sit in the car,” Santamara said. A driver in the sense of law can observe the driving of the bus through the computer. ”
This means that many buses can run automatically and an operator sitting in the central office can intervene remotely if necessary. Reducing the number of operators can help improve the financial viability of bus routes with fewer passengers or adjust them based on the number of passengers.
Helsinki has implemented several projects to try to use technology to change the public transport system. One of them is kutsuplus, an on-demand microbus service that has been running for four years. Kutsuplus’s software can integrate the requests of multiple passengers and plan the optimal route for one of its 15 minibuses.
“It’s a good experiment, but a little ahead of the times,” said Sami Sahala, a consultant on “smart transportation” in Helsinki Kutsuplus is very popular with huge subsidies from the municipal government, and the number of passengers is increasing.
A company called split provides on-demand services in Washington, D.C., and Uber and LYFT have developed similar car sharing services.
Helsinki is also implementing other projects to transform its transportation system. One of the most ambitious projects is the Maas global service launched by a Finnish company this autumn – users can enjoy all services by paying a monthly fee. Mr. Sahala said the concept, known as “mobile as a service”, was inspired by decades of changes in the telecommunications industry. “In the past, users used to pay for every call they made. However, with the advent of mobile phones, business models began to change. Now, users can use all kinds of services at will just by paying monthly rent. “.
Through an application called whim, Maas global enables customers to order ride services and guarantees to provide ride services to customers through comprehensive utilization of tram, bus, taxi and taxi services.
To succeed, says Sampo Hietanen, chief executive of Maas global, Maas global should offer the same feeling as owning a car.
The cost of cars is not cheap. Research shows that most urban car users rarely use their own cars, so people may give up buying cars and use the saved money to use services such as whim.
Hitanen said that self driving cars and buses may eventually help to make MaaS Global and other service prices acceptable to most people.
Santamara and his colleagues analyzed each trip to understand the differences between self driving buses and manned buses, as well as the response of passengers and pedestrians to self driving buses.