A self-driving electric minibus in Finland welcomed its first passengers this week, launching a scheduled service in the Kivikko district of Helsinki.
The NAVYA automated bus, part of the Helsinki RobobusLine project, forms part of preparations for commercial automated bus operations in the city, which are projected to start in three years’ time. RobobusLine is the country’s first long-range project to operate an automated electric minibus on a fixed route.
“The Helsinki RobobusLine project studies the long-term usability and the maturity of the automated minibus technology in real traffic conditions and as part of public transit services,” said Helsinki RobobusLine project leader Eetu Rutanen of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. The university operates the bus and is conducting the project with support from the City of Helsinki and the European Union.
The automated minibus will operate for six months over the summer and fall of 2018. The vehicle, which will initially have an operator on board, will operate at a top speed of 18km/h.
The operators believe that while last-mile routes are not typically commercially viable with conventional buses, they might become so with driverless buses.
“One of the main goals of the project is to provide an innovation platform for enterprises to produce a consortium who can develop automated bus operation into a commercially viable option for Helsinki Region Transport in the last-mile service – taking riders from a public transit station to stops near their homes and offices,” said Rutanen.