Self-Driving Public Transport Are Making Its Way to Europe

Technology has made its presence felt in various industries. In the car industry, self-driving cars will soon become a reality with various transport groups already testing out the technology. Various car makers have brought autonomous driving to their luxury sedans and sports utility vehicles. Across Europe, however, there are plans to bring autonomous driving to public transportation systems.

Testing the Technology

The dream of putting self-driving public utility vehicles in the streets of Europe are gaining ground. This is a possibility given Europe’s densely packed urban areas and decades-old public transit systems such as subways, trains, and buses. According to a review by The New York Times, there are over 20 pilot or existing public transport programs throughout Europe involving self-driving cars.

In Berlin, for example, a team led by Michael Barillere-Scholz is testing a self-driving shuttle. The project is spearheaded by Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s largest train and bus operator. The vehicle has room for 12 passengers and its top speed barely reaches 20 miles per hour. The team will also test an autonomous bus on public roads in Southern Germany.

Last April, city planners in London conducted a three-week trial involving a self-driving shuttle moving along a three-mile route on mostly private roads. According to Nick Reed, the project coordinator, their plan would help the city meet public demand without investing millions or even billions in traditional subways or buses.

But these projects are not focused on self-driving cars alone. Carlo Ratti, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spearheaded a team that tested a driverless boat in Amsterdam. The goal of Mr. Ratti was to build a fleet of these driverless boats to the city by the end of the decade. The plan was to help ferry people across Amsterdam’s network of canals. The initial prototype was remote controlled. However, in the future, it will incorporate sensors and other technology that will make the boat fully autonomous.

Making The Dream A Reality

HarriSantamala, who coordinates several projects including autonomous public transport in Finland, autonomous driving technology can work. Making self-driving cars work for public transportation is a much easier challenge. The technology limits these vehicles to smaller distances unlike in personal transport. While they may have high-tech sensors and gadgets needed for autonomous driving, these vehicles are designed for functionality rather than speed and style.

There are, however, signs that self-driving public vehicles may soon become a reality in the streets of Europe.

Robert Peter Janitzek offers tips and guides on European brand cars. Check out his blog at

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