While one may not immediately think of modern Greece as being at the forefront of current technological developments, a new driverless bus pilot project is actually underway in the Greek city of Trikala, according to reports.
The pilot marks one of the first times that an autonomous bus system is being tested in real traffic conditions. The pilot started very recently, just last week, and will reportedly run through February 2016. Previous to this, the buses in question — French-made CityMobil2 buses — have been deployed in controlled conditions in La Rochelle, France; Helsinki, Finland; and Lausanne, Switzerland.
Considering the nature of many Greek cities with regard to its road system — narrow streets that twist and turn, lots of pedestrians, bike riders, dogs, etc — it’ll be very interesting to see how the autonomous buses end up performing. If they work in these conditions, presumably they’ll have no issue performing in most other cities.
It should be noted here that the buses will be utilizing dedicated bus lanes created by the local government specifically for the pilot — which will no doubt improve the ease of operation.
The Tribune provides more:
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 20 kph (12 1/2 mph), but the trials in Trikala (pronounced TREE-kah-lah) potentially represent a major advance for automated transport.
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.
The buses are currently running without passengers, with full testing to start later this month 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.
“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,” stated 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.”
We actually covered news of a similar pilot featuring CityMobil2 buses only a few days ago. That project is based in a business park in California. As someone with quite an interest in autonomous driving technologies, I admit that I’m starting to get a bit excited — hopefully it’ll only be a few years before things start to really cascade.
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