Would you ride on a driverless bus? The tiny CityMobil2 driverless bus takes its route in front of Osman Sah Mosque, in Trikala town, Greece. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Would you ride on a driverless bus?
Lexile

There'll be no arguing with the driver on this bus: the rides are free and there's no driver, anyway.
 
Trikala, a rural town in northern Greece, has been chosen to test a driverless bus in real traffic conditions for the first time, part of a European project to revolutionize mass transport and wean its cities off oil dependency over the next 30 years.
 
Trials of the French-built CityMobil2 buses will last through late February.
 
Over the past year, CityMobil2 has been tried out near its base in La Rochelle in western France, on a campus in Lausanne, Switzerland and near Helsinki, Finland, all in controlled conditions that produced no accidents.
 
But in Greece, a country of narrow, winding, hilly streets, stray dogs, bicycle riders and impatient drivers, the buses are up against real traffic. The Greek government had to amend its laws to allow the testing and the city had to build a dedicated bus lane that deprived residents of downtown parking spaces.
 
The robot buses don't look like science fiction vehicles - more like golf cart meets ice-cream truck. Still, heads turn as the skinny, battery-powered buses hum through the streets. They seat only 10 people and are guided by GPS and supplementary sensors, including lasers and cameras that send live data to a control center.
 
The buses go no faster than 12 1/2 miles per hour, but the trials in Trikala (pronounced TREE-kah-lah) potentially represent a major advance for automated transport.
 
"There were cities bidding for this project all over Europe. They offered relatively restricted urban areas. But we said we could make it happen in a downtown environment and we won," said Odisseas Raptis, who heads the city's digital project department, e-Trikala. "We have a 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) route, the bus route. It's mixed with traffic, with pedestrians, with bicycles, with cars ... That hasn't been done before."
 
Vasilis Karavidas, chief technician for the project in Greece, trained with Robosoft, the company that developed the bus, in the southwest French town of Bidart.
 
Although the driverless buses are fully automated with onboard navigation and obstacle detection systems, each vehicle will be monitored by a driver in the control center who can override the system, Karavidas said.
 
"It's as if they are in here and they can stop the bus if they want to, if something goes wrong," he said.
 
The buses are currently running without passengers, with full testing to start later in October when a fiber-optic network allowing faster data transmission is completed. Six battery-powered vehicles will eventually be used in this farming town of 80,000 that has become hooked on high-tech.
 
Trikala already has already tested EU-funded pilot medical programs, including schemes to relay heart test data from home to the doctor's office and use tracker devices for Alzheimer patients. In the center of the city, a "digital tree" with solar panels allows benches to carry phone-charging outlets.
 
The 28-nation European Union is targeting gasoline use for city transport as one area where it wants to reduce carbon emissions. With oil prices and city populations expected to rise in the coming decades, a major shift to battery power and more shared transport could blur the line between private and public vehicles.
 
Senior transport analyst Philippe Crist at the International Transport Forum, an OECD think-tank based in Paris, says transport trends are hard to predict as the world moves more toward automation.
 
"We too often look at technological changes in isolation," said Crist. "There is a good chance that these technologies will create entirely new uses that we can only poorly grasp today. The reality is that everything is changing around these technologies and it is plausible that society may lose interest in owning cars or using fixed-service public transport - especially if these technologies allow better alternatives to emerge."
 
Models run by the think tank suggest that city transport could be made massively more efficient.
 
Crist said researchers looked at "shared and route-optimized on-call taxi-like services replacing all car and bus trips in a mid-sized European city. We found that these systems could deliver almost the same mobility as today but with 95 percent fewer vehicles."
 
Driverless cars and buses offer an easier way to optimize traffic flow while aiming to eliminate human error. That has transport developers working at both ends: adding automatic features to conventional vehicles while raising the bar for those that will have no driver at all.
 
So far, the CityMobile2 has had mixed reviews on the streets of Trikala. Not everyone is happy to lose parking spots or replace human jobs with machines. Still, retiree Michalis Pantelis said he was proud that his city was selected for the testing.
 
"I think it's wonderful. Think how many people will come to Trikala to see this. It's new and innovative," he said, moments after a driverless bus passed by. "It reminds me of the toy cars my grandchildren play with."

Filed Under:  
Assigned 34 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What advantages does a driverless bus offer?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (36)
  • kenjiw-kus
    10/19/2015 - 03:34 p.m.

    I Think that this automated bus is a pretty cool idea. Its free and its off of oil dependency.

  • fernandez,sienna-cas
    10/20/2015 - 12:03 p.m.

    1. The driver-less bus presents a major plus for the atmosphere. It is battery powered so there is less carbon emission and air pollution. For Greece, it also enhances the amount of tourism. Many people from different countries will come to see what this new transportation is all about. Human error while driving is also eliminated.
    2. I think that this invention is a good idea. I don't know if I would personally go on that bus but it is comforting to know that there is an actual person watching to see that nothing goes wrong. I think overall, it has a lot of advantages and it might become popular worldwide some day.

  • alyssak-day
    10/20/2015 - 06:07 p.m.

    TT:2 Alyssa K
    I like the article “Would you ride on a driverless bus?” because it explains some of the ways that the world is advancing in technology. Trikala, a town in northern Greece has created a driverless bus that drives people around for free.However, these battery powered buses only reach a maximum speed of about 12 ½ miles per hour. They believe that driverless vehicles will cause less traffic and may be even safer for people because there is less room for human error.

  • holdenv-day
    10/21/2015 - 12:19 p.m.

    Car companies all over the world are making these self driving cars even google is making one. Self driving cars would be really cool they could drive while you did some thing else. Something that is concerning however is its run by a computer. We already know that computers have glitches. What we want to avoid is the car having these glitches other than that a self driving vehicle would be awesome. This was a great article

  • raymondw-day
    10/21/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    How would you feel riding around in a bus without a driver? I don't know about you but I get nervous and anxious in a vehicle that I am not operating. We all know it just takes one mistake for a tragedy. Just as everyone knows computers aren't perfect, they make errors just like everyone else. But the major difference is that computers can't adjust their mistakes right away the way most people can, I refer to that as a survival instinct or a reflex. In fact it takes a person to fix the computer when an error occurs, so in other words you will not catch me using this type of public transportation.

  • esmit6-wim
    10/21/2015 - 01:13 p.m.

    it offers a smoother, less confusing, and less loud bus on your morning route to work or home from work after a long and busy dasy at the office, the driver-less bus will benefit a whole lot of people!!

  • bourque,nathaniel-1-cas
    10/21/2015 - 02:18 p.m.

    1.Driverless buses has many advantages too it.First off its legit for this worlds technology.Many people would enjoy coming down to see how it is.You wouldn't have to worry about pollution and having too pay for fuel.One big thing is not having to worry about a human error.

    2.I think this driverless bus is a good invention for this world of technology.As many stuff involves through are technology this would be a big change.It has its advantages and its disadvantages but i would enjoy seeing this.It would make a big change to this world and its economy.

  • zachr-ofs
    10/21/2015 - 03:57 p.m.

    They are money saving car. They only go about 12.5 mph.
    They only can carry ten people.
    Its more safe because there will hardly be any car accidents. I think that these are a good idea but they need them to go faster. the driver-less bus presents a major plus for the atmosphere. It is battery powered so there is less carbon emission and air pollution.

  • slaydej-ofs
    10/21/2015 - 03:58 p.m.

    Heck yeah I'de ride a driverless bus I think its pretty cool and yeah it would be a lot more convenient for the drivers since instead of having to drive a bunch of people they have more time to kill.

  • tylers-day
    10/21/2015 - 06:29 p.m.

    I feel like this idea is very dangerous. I can just see one of the sensors failing and the bus crashing. Also why would they make the bus so slow. People aren't going to want to take a show bus to get to wherever they're going. People could bike and run faster than the bus. I don't know this whole concept just doesn't mage sense to me but it will be interesting to see how well it works out.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT