According to the city of Helsinki, “the introduction of Helsinki RoboBusLine represents a shift from an experimental phase to regular, scheduled public transit service with self-driving buses.”
Ahead of the introduction of the RoboBusLine, two driverless minibuses have been tested in real traffic conditions in the capital and other Finnish cities since the summer in 2016.These tests will continue in Helsinki through the 2017 summer.
In a release, the city said the Sohjoa project launched two EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses in Helsinki’s Hernesaari waterfront district in mid-August 2016 to carry passengers on a straight quarter-mile (2.4km) course on a public street.
With an operator on board in case of an emergency, the buses traveled at 11 km per hour (7 m.p.h.), learning the route and accruing knowledge about autonomous bus operation. Sohjoa is an EU-financed joint project by the six largest cities of Finland, Finnish universities, and transportation authorities to prepare for new public transit services and autonomous vehicles.
The release added that after the Finland capital debut, Sohjoa self-driving bus trials have continued in the Finnish cities of Espoo and Tampere, to resume in Helsinki for July – August 2017, when the buses will shuttle passengers in Helsinki’s Mustikkamaa recreational island to Helsinki Zoo.
Innovation and R&D
Sohjoa project manager Oscar Nissin of Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences explains that Sohjoa is a game opener in autonomous bus R&D, saying, “We focus on a number of aspects including sensor technology, user experience, and how to complement overall public transit services with self-driving buses.”
The current project leader, Metropolia’s smart mobility program director Harri Santamala explains, “RoboBus will allow us to test operation in everyday public transit conditions. It will be used to study the long-term operability of self-driving buses and customer behaviour.”
The RoboBusLine is one component of Helsinki’s contribution to the EU-financed mySMARTLife programme, in which European cities develop smart, energy-efficient mobility and lifestyles. The mySMARTLife programme goal is to reduce energy consumption in cities by 10 – 15%. mySMARTLife is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, which includes development of new urban solutions to mitigate climate change.
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