Following a successful test run, the city of Helsinki, Finland has announced plans to start a regular and scheduled public transit service with self-driving buses.
Dubbed the RoboBusLine, the service will kick off this fall and the city says the move “represents a shift from an experimental phase” to one that will see the service go mainstream. The details are still being hammered out but the route and schedule will be announced later this year.
The move follows a testing period which saw two autonomous EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses being used to carry passengers on a straight quarter-mile course in Helsinki’s Hernesaari waterfront district. The buses traveled at a leisurely 11 km/h (7 mph) and had an operator on board in case of an emergency.
Testing has moved on to the cities of Espoo and Tampere but will soon return to Helsinki where the buses will be used to shuttle passengers between the Helsinki Zoo and the Mustikkamaa island.
Interestingly, Helsinki doesn’t see the buses as a replacement for traditional public transport but rather a solution for the “last mile of public transit.” In particular, the city notes the buses could be used to take riders from regular public transit stops directly to their homes. This promises to reduce the amount of cars that need to drive into the city.