Saturday, August 20, 2016


Tesla Motors in the US may be having problems in their self-driving vehicle development, but over in Europe, Finland is set to begin trial runs of a self-driving minibus design on the streets of Helsinki starting with two units, alongside traffic with driven vehicles and pedestrians.

According to The Guardian, the EZ-10 minibus developed by French company EasyMile has had a successful closed-road test (self-) drive in the Netherlands, as well as in the small Finnish town of Vantaa during a housing fair. Those times there were no real-time traffic to interrupt their routes, but now they’ll have to contend with the ever-changing conditions of major roads in a large city, specifically the Hernessari district of waterfront Helsinki, for a one-month trial.

These electrically powered self-driving transports are capable of carrying from 9 to 12 passengers and a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour. During their trial run however, the two minibuses have their speed locked at a leisurely seven miles. Furthermore, a driver is also present inside the vehicles during the test period to take control of the minibuses, just in case. Their set route for the moment is to ferry commuters between two stations for public transit.

Metropolia University of Applied Sciences project manager and project lead of the EZ-10 test run, Harri Santamala, says there are more of these street traffic trials being done with self-driving buses in other cities, but the time has come to graduate the transports from controlled environments like closed roads, and on to actual vehicle-filled thoroughfares.

The EZ-10 minibus project is but another step in Helsinki’s grand plan to make fully efficient the city’s public transport system and develop a unique on-demand transport program. Residents would be able to use phone apps to book and pay when travelling by bus, train or taxi, and also to arrange for other motorists to share vehicles like cars and bicycles. By ten years, according to the city government’s most positive estimates, these intra-city travel accommodations will render obsolete the notion of Helsinkians owning their own cars, making them use public transport and sharing instead.

Finland itself has become an international pioneer in the development and testing of automated technology. Part of the reason is that Finnish law on road vehicles is unusually worded, in that vehicles running on roads do not even require a driver operating it. This means automation companies don’t have quite a lot of red tape to cut through for testing their devices and vehicles like in America.

The UK itself has joined the self-driving transport bandwagon, with possibilities ranging from driverless trucks and self-driving SUVs made by Volvo.

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