At the forefront of global scrutiny over its economic situation, you certainly wouldn’t consider Greece as a leader in any industry, let alone of the of most innovative and growing sectors in the world. Well, think again – the struggling nation is making waves in the technology world for it’s autonomous bus project to be implemented in the city of Trikala, north of Athens.
The driver-less bus program will use technology developed by French company CityMobil2, and is the first time in the world public driver-less buses will be tested in real traffic conditions.
The scheme was launched earlier this week and is planned to continue in a trial format until February 2016. Controlled testing of these buses have been launched in previous months in other European cities, La Rochelle, France; Helsinki, Finland; and Lausanne, Switzerland.
This will be the first publicly accessible trial of the technology, and the Greek government hopes moves such as this one will promote growth and economic stability in the current climate in Greece.
The design of the vehicles have been customised to suit the complex, narrow and winding streets of many European cites. It is hoped that if the technology can perform successfully in busy conditions with other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, it will be able to succeed in most traffic conditions around the world.
“There were cities bidding for this project all over Europe. They offered relatively restricted urban areas, but we said we could make it happen in a down town environment and we won” said digital project head, Odisseas Raptis.
“We will mix the project with traffic, pedestrians, bicycles and cars… and this has never been done before” he added.
No Driver, No Cost
The buses will be equipped with fully automated on-board navigation and obstacle detection technology that will guide the vehicle on the roads.
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The trial system is yet to transport passengers, however the buses are moving through the city’s streets empty in order to test the efficiency and safety of the systems in place.
A total of six battery powered buses will eventually be accessible by commuters in the small Greek city.
The buses will not only offer an exciting driver-free experience for passengers, the scheme will also be completely free in order to encourage public involvement in the trial.
With a maximum speed of 20 kph, the bus project is focused on moving the technology forward in a gradual and responsible way. Despite the small size of the project, this represents major potential for progress in automated transport in the future.
Maintaining safety as the most important requirement of the trials, the buses will be monitored by a driver in the control centre who is able to override the automatic system at any point.
Driver-less Buses Contribute to EU Carbon Reduction Goals
The bus scheme is a part of Greece’s contribution to a wider European Union move towards reducing carbon emissions as a collective groups of states.
As oil prices are on the rise in many of the EU nations, as well as population growth being at an all time high, the shift to battery power is becoming more popular in areas like the transport sector.
Philippe Crist of the International Transport Forum (ITF) says that transport trends are hard to predict as the world moves toward automation, however one thing that is certain is a strong push for more renewable and technologically advanced solutions.
“We too often look at technological changes in isolation… the reality is that it is plausible that society may lose interest in owning cars or using fixed-service public transport” he continued.
These predictions provide a solid justification and promising future for investment in new and sustainable technologies in the transport industry.
Assessment from the ITF has suggested that there is enormous potential for the transport industry to be made more efficient, as it is currently one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions in the world.
Not only could new technologies like the driver-less bus systems reduce pollution, they are likely to increase efficiency and mobility in transport systems the world over.
Crist explains that “these systems could deliver almost the same mobility as today but with 95 percent fewer vehicles”. Even more, safety looks to be increased as human error in traffic conditions will be minimised or eliminated entirely.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Despoix