Semi-automated ‘city bus of the future’ hits the road

Article By : Christoph Hammerschmidt

The bus manoeuvres automatically, recognising obstacles, vehicles and pedestrians on the track and slows down accordingly, if necessary to a full stop.

Daimler targets traffic congestion in its spin on the lowly city bus.

No mirrors, but piles of forward- and backward-looking cameras, long- and short-range radar along with high-precision GPS – these sensors create a exact 260-degree virtual image of the surroundings. This equipment enables Daimler’s newly-designed Future Bus to roll along a 20-km track (about 12.5 miles) through the city traffic of Amsterdam without driver intervention. The technology will enter series production early in the next decade, the company says.

The bus requires specially equipped bus lanes, so-called BRT lanes (bus rapid transit). It drives at speeds up to 70 kmph autonomously. During the ride, a driver is required to monitor the system, but as long as he does not intervene, the bus can maneuver automatically, it recognises obstacles, vehicles and pedestrians on the track and slows down accordingly, if necessary to a full stop. Any intervention from the side of the driver overrides and terminates the “automatic” mode.

Take the 90-second Power Design Challenge

The bus also communicates wirelessly with the roadside infrastructure, enabling it to optimise speed and thus fuel consumption according to the traffic light and the remaining duration of the red and green phase.

A particular tricky development regards the shape of the traffic lights: Since it is incredible difficult for machine intelligence to identify a traffic light at some distance using a camera, the traffic lights along the demonstration route differ from the usual traffic lights. The red signal is indicated by two red dots in a horizontal arrangement, two white dots in a vertical line mean “go”. In addition to the camera image, the bus also has the wireless signal to know when to stop.

The system is a further developed variant of Daimler’s Highway Pilot for trucks with several modifications aiming at city traffic.

For the passengers, the bus also has a technology goodie: In the rear part of the bus, passengers can place their smartphones into specific cradles and have their batteries charged wirelessly.

Leave a comment