Buses—small, electric, and automated—may be transit’s future

Why some believe the first electric, self-guided vehicle you’ll ride should and could be a bus

It may seem unlikely that a bus route that takes passengers to a local sauna would provide a glimpse of transportation’s future. But, to be fair, we’re talking public transit in Finland.

The Sohjoa project, a newly launched autonomous bus trial in Helsinki, Finland, transports up to a dozen passengers at a time through a short, quarter-mile route, a section of the Hernesaari district dotted with restaurants and saunas. According to Harri Santamala, the city’s project coordinator, this small trial is just the beginning. In the spring, the city will launch a larger trial on a regular route through the city to measure customer response and basic operations data.

“We need to get more long-term data, get something operating permanently, and get local people to really use it,” he says. “So far, much of the traffic has been from reporters and people coming to town just to ride the bus.”

08. November 2017

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