Helsinki plans to launch a new bus line operated with one self-driving in the fall of 2017. The introduction of the ne line represents a shift from an experimental phase to regular, scheduled public transit service with self-driving buses.
Paving the way for the new RoboBus, two driverless minibuses have been tested in real traffic conditions in Helsinki and other Finnish cities since summer 2016, and these test runs will continue in Helsinki in the summer, when the buses will shuttle passengers in Helsinki’s Mustikkamaa recreational island to Helsinki Zoo.
The Sohjoa project launched two EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses in Helsinki’s Hernesaari waterfront district in mid-August 2016 to carry passengers on a straight quarter-mile course on a public street. With an operator on board in case of an emergency, the buses traveled at 11 km per hour, learning the route and accruing knowledge about autonomous bus operation.
Sohjoa project manager Oscar Nissin of Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences explains that Sohjoa is a game opener in autonomous bus R&D, saying, “We focus on a number of aspects including sensor technology, user experience, and how to complement overall public transit services with self-driving buses.”
The road vehicle for RoboBusLine is an electric minibus currently under acquisition through a competitive bid process. The route, the launch date, and the schedule will be announced later. The acquisition is supported by City of Helsinki.
One of the factors that make Finland a forerunner in self-driving vehicle operation is Finnish law, which does not state that a vehicle has to have a driver.
Sohjoa is an EU-financed joint project by the six largest cities of Finland, Finnish universities, and transportation authorities to prepare for new public transit services and autonomous vehicles.