The self-driving electric minibus of Helsinki bus line 94R. Photo attribution: Milla Aman/Oscar Nissin

Self-driving bus on Helsinki RobobusLine goes to scheduled service

The driverless bus on public roads paves the way for regular automated bus service in Helsinki.

A self-driving electric minibus supplied by NAVYA to the Helsinki RobobusLine accepted the first passengers on board on May 14, 2018, launching scheduled service in regular traffic on roads in the Kivikko district of Helsinki. The RobobusLine project prepares for commercially viable automated bus operation in Helsinki projected to start in three years’ time.

The Helsinki RobobusLine’s minibus will operate for six months over the summer and fall of 2018. It runs 3–6 times an hour between 9 AM and 3 PM on weekdays, carrying passengers from a stop of a regular Helsinki bus line to a sports park.

Helsinki RobobusLine complements the network of Helsinki’s metropolitan public transit authority Helsinki Region Transport (HSL). Its line number is 94R (R for Robot), destination Kivikko Sports Park. Line 94R is incorporated into the Helsinki Region Transport’s Journey Planner.

The top speed on the route is 18 km/h, slightly below the minibus’s maximum speed of 25 km/h. Initially there will be an operator on board.

“The Helsinki RobobusLine project studies the long-term usability and the maturity of the automated minibus technology in real traffic conditions and as part of public transit services,” says the Helsinki RobobusLine project leader Eetu Rutanen of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, which operates the bus and conducts the project with support from the City of Helsinki and the European Union.

“One of the main goals of the project is to provide an innovation platform for enterprises to produce a consortium who can develop automated bus operation into a commercially viable option for Helsinki Region Transport in the last-mile service – taking riders from a public transit station to stops near their homes and offices,” Rutanen continues.

Typically the last-mile routes cannot be operated viably with conventional buses but could become commercially feasible with driverless buses.

“We study user behavior, for example, how likely people are to opt for public transit rather than drive when there is a public transit option available for the last mile,” Rutanen explains. Lengthy distances to public transit stations are often the reason for opting for a private car.

The Helsinki RobobusLine project is one of the smart mobility projects in Helsinki designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transportation with electric vehicles and increased use of sustainable public transportation. The City of Helsinki has announced a plan to become carbon neutral by 2035. Helsinki Region Transport plans to give up fossil fuels by 2021.

Helsinki RobobusLine follows Metropolia’s Sohjoa project, which has tested two self-driving EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses in public places in Helsinki and other Finnish cities over the past two years. The Sohjoa project will be closed in late May 2018, after final test runs at the Suvilahti cultural center in Helsinki.

The launch of Helsinki RobobusLine marks a shift from an experimental phase to regular operation with self-driving minibuses. RobobusLine is the first long-range project in Finland to operate an automated electric minibus on a fixed route.

The Robobus vehicle from NAVYA of France represents the latest generation of automated electric minibuses. Its guidance and detection systems combine data from Lidar sensors, cameras, GPS RTK, IMU and odometry, which are merged and interpreted by deep learning programs.

The Helsinki RobobusLine project is supported by the EU-funded mySMARTLife project, in which Helsinki develops smart commercial-scale solutions with other European cities to cut urban carbon dioxide emissions, focusing on transportation and housing.

See a video on the preparation of Robobus for traffic (bus coating design and video by Atte Linna)

RobobusLine in Journey Planner

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Smart mobility development in Helsinki

Metropolia

Sohjoa

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