Self-driving Buses on Test Drive in Helsinki

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Two self-driving buses will carry people during a one-month trial on the public roads in Helsinki, Finland. The buses will drive in traffic for the first time in Helsinki’s southern district Hernesaari and will have to face unpredictable scenarios, due to commuters and other road users.

Harri Santamala, test project leader and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences Project Manager, said: “There’s no more than a handful of these kind of street traffic trials taking place.”

Previous tests have been run in the Helsinki’s suburban town of Vantaa on closed roads during a housing fair. Unlike most other countries, Finnish law allows vehicles not to have a driver on public roads, making the development of automated technology easier.

The plan is not to replace all human-driven buses by self-driving ones, but to extend the Finnish public transport system.

The electric mini-buses – called Easymile EZ-10 – can carry 12 people, and can go at a speed of 40km/h maximum but will go at an average speed of 10km/h for the trial.
In 2014, The Finnish capital started implementing a 10-year plan to make car ownership pointless through point-to-point “mobility on demand” systems. According to the city council, the system has faced problems, and the smart municipal bus service, Kutsuplus, had to be shut down after a year because of the low volume of passengers and resulting costs.

The small self-driving buses could fill that niche where human-operated transport has proved inefficient with municipal funds.
There will also be similar trials in the UK, with automated lorries on the M6, as well as small public transport pods, and driverless Volvo SUVs in London.

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