Self-driving technology could mean the end of bus strikes

Mercedes self-driving bus driving in tunnel at night

It’s 7:30am on a Monday morning and you’re waiting for your usual bus, except for this time it’s a bit smaller, quieter, follows a more direct route for you and most noticeably, there’s no driver. This is what the not so distant future of public transport in Ireland could look like if our current services adopt the self-driving technology.

With the Dublin Bus strikes still fresh in the minds of the 400,000 commuters who use the service each day, it begs the question, should we be looking at deploying autonomous buses in Dublin?

This idea has been implemented in Helsinki and it seems to be going down a treat. For the last month two self-driving buses, known as the Easymile EZ-10, which are capable of seating 12, have been operating along a fixed route in Helsinki’s Hernesaari neighbourhood. These buses are limited to 10km/h and have drivers on board in case there’s any situation the self-driving technology mightn’t be able to handle.

Small electric self-driving bus
The Olli, an electric self-driving bus – Photo credit: doodle blue (Flicker)

Helsinki was chosen as a testing ground for these buses as Finland is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t require every vehicle on its roads to have a driver on board.

Alissa Walker conducted an examination on self-driving buses and said, “By nearly every metric, the self-driving buses improved on the current condition: emissions were down, congestion was down, and the city needed fewer overall vehicles. Not only that but the experience was better for riders, who didn’t have to wait or make transfers, meaning they could spend more time working or with their families.”

Another electric self-driving bus, which seats 12, already being tested on public roads in Washingstreet D.C., is known as the Olli. The Olli is the product of a collaboration between Local Motors and IBM’s Watson Internet of Things AutoLAB, where Joe Speed is a product owner. Joe Speed recently said, “To see a number of large, empty, human-driven, petrol buses on fixed routes, fixed schedules . . . we need a self-driving swarm that goes where the people are and takes them where they need to be.”

A semi-autonomous bus, more similar to the ones we’re used to seeing today, has been recently been tested by Mercedes in Amsterdam. It ran a 12-mile route alongside real world traffic.

Mercedes self-driving bus driving in tunnel at night
mercedes-self-driving bus, driving through a tunnel – Photo credit: Duonog Cong Minh (Flicker)

With negotiations still ongoing and more strikes still a possibility, the question is, should Dublin Bus look at testing this new technology as soon as possible, to ensure bus strikes are a thing of the past? What do you think, would this work on Irish roads? Take a look at how it worked this summer in Amsterdam below.

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