Public transportation might have just one-upped our personal transportation methods. To take advantage of autonomous driving technology, you don’t have to buy your own fancy car — instead, just head over to Amsterdam, where Mercedes-Benz revealed the world’s first self-driving city bus on Monday. Known as the Future Bus, this 21st century vehicle took a 12-mile trek through the streets of the Dutch city using Mercedes’ autonomous driving system — CityPilot.
Similar to HighwayPilot, which the German car company used to send semi trucks down highways, CityPilot helps buses drive semi-autonomously in specifically marked bus lanes. Capable of reaching speeds up to 43 miles per hour, the bus is said to operate “even more safely, efficiently, and comfortably than conventional buses.” According to Mercedes: “The CityPilot is able to recognize traffic lights, communicate with them, and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. It can also recognize obstacles, especially pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously.”
In its test run, Mercedes noted that its Future Bus was able to master “an exacting route … with a number of tight bends, tunnels, numerous bus stops, and involving high speeds for a city bus.” And because it reduces a human bus driver’s workload (don’t worry, there’s a driver aboard at all times to keep an eye on things), a CityPilot-equipped bus “improves efficiency, as its smooth, predictive driving style saves wear and tear while lowering fuel consumption and emissions.”
And don’t worry — it’s not just navigation in which the Future Bus excels. Mercedes has taken the same care with the interior of its vehicle, claiming that the open-plan design of these buses takes its lead from city squares and parks. “Designer seats are loosely arranged along the walls in each zone,” Mercedes says, while “innovative grab rails reflect the park-like theme by branching upward like trees toward the two-tone ceiling. The ceiling lighting resembles a leaf canopy.”
But don’t get too excited. Sadly, Mercedes doesn’t seem to have plans to put Future Bus and the CityPilot system into full production. Rather, it plans to incorporate individual aspects of the technology into various public vehicles. But all the same, the German company says, it’s well on its way to “developing the bus transport system of tomorrow.”