A fourth self-driving toaster seen in another city, this time in Europe.
NOT content with having the fastest students on Earth, (see page 8), Switzerland announced it will also start testing autonomous buses.
This brings to four the number of toaster-shaped robot transporters being tested around the world, with the 3D printed Olli from Local Motors in Washington DC, (which we reported on last week), taking the most novel approach.
Then there is the sealed-in EZ10 in California and the opentopped Navia making the most of the breeze in humid Singapore.
Made in your town
The latest robot bus is called the Englanf and can carry about 11 passengers in comfort. The buses will not only make traffic better, but bring the Wheels prediction of locally-made transport a step closer.
Local Motors CEO John Rogers recently told Agence FrancePresse the technology for these buses is ready and the likes of Olli can start driving itself on public roads as soon as local laws allow it.
Rogers said Local Motors envisages hundreds of micro-factories where Ollis are 3D-printed around the world to fit local needs.
The Swiss bus is assembled using more conventional nuts and bolts, and initially only two buses will steer themselves through the town.
This pilot project, which is part of the Mobility Lab Sion Valais initiative, is an opportunity for EPFL researchers to test and improve their traffic and fleetmanagement algorithms.
The smart vehicles will be run by PostBus, Switzerland’s leading public bus operator.
They will carry up to 11 passengers at a time, at a maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour.
Like the giant autonomous trucks that have been operating for years in Rio Tinto’s mines in Australia, a remote operator monitors and controls the vehicle using a software program developed by the EPFL startup BestMile.
All the pilot Englanf trips will be for mahala.
The Swiss Federal Roads Office and the Valais Roads Service carefully analysed both technical and legal considerations before green-lighting the tests. But the electric vehicles had to be brought up to spec first. This included installing air conditioning, a second battery, an access ramp for people with reduced mobility and a windshield wiper for the front window.
The researchers from EPFL’s Urban Transport Systems Laboratory said in a statement their challenge was to develop a fleetmanagement system that could handle the many situations that autonomous vehicles could encounter.
The vehicles must also be able to communicate with each other and with others on the road so that they can adjust their speed as necessary and respect the right-of-way.
The two-year project is supported by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI). It will include a reliable system for managing the specific needs of passengers, such as ondemand service, booking a ride in advance and offering flexible routes. The algorithms will have to be able to manage these tasks in real time, without sacrificing safety or cost efficiency. Once ready, the algorithms will be incorporated in the central fleetmanagement system.
Future city traffic will be made safer and less congested by autonomous buses like the Englanf Swiss bus (top left), the Navia in Singapore (bottom left); the Olli that talks back in the U.S (top right) and the EZ10 in California.