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10,000 passengers have tried autonomous bus service

Already 10,000 passengers and 2,000 kilometres in traffic. The first three months of Scandinavia’s first project involving autonomous vehicles on public roads has been a success and provided valuable experience.

The aim of the Autopiloten project is to accumulate knowledge about how autonomous technology can play a part in the development of public transport. It should be possible to use the type of bus being tested as a complement to other public transport. It could open for truly door-to-door solutions that link the journey together and make public transport as a whole more attractive.

The project began on 24 January 2018 and will run until the summer. Already, 10,000 passengers have travelled with the two autonomous buses that operate on a route in Kista, Stockholm.

“People who live or work in Kista use the buses to commute. But we have also had thousands of visitors, from both Sweden and abroad, who have travelled to Kista solely to try out the buses. Everyone from architects and urban planners to private individuals who are interested in the vehicles,” says Peter Hafmar, CEO of Nobina Technology.

Researchers from the Integrated Transport Research Lab (ITRL) at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology are conducting a number of studies linked to the test project in Kista, to assess if and how such a solution can be used in a wider context.  Research groups have, for example, interviewed more than 500 people who live or work in Kista about their opinions of the autonomous buses. Researchers will now continue to study any change in attitudes during the duration of the test.

“The preliminary results of the first interviews show that about 70 per cent are interested in using such a service as part of their commute, and many are also prepared to pay for this type of service,” says ITRL’s Director Anna Pernestål Brenden.  

The interviewees state that key factors that influence whether they would choose autonomous buses as an alternative are security, punctuality, reliable traffic information and safety.

The buses perform very well in traffic and managed the winter conditions better than expected.

“Some delays were caused by other vehicles that were incorrectly parked. If something is blocking the road, then the bus reacts exactly as it should and stops. We have also received some comments about the slow speed – but safety comes first in a trial such as this. Now that we can see how well the buses perform in traffic, we will increase the speed from 12 to 20 kilometres per hour,” says Peter Hafmar from Nobina.

Nobina will use the lessons learnt from Kista when taking the next step for autonomous buses, namely to incorporate the new technology into an existing public transport network.

About Autopiloten

  •  The Autopiloten project is being conducted by Nobina Technology in cooperation with Ericsson, SJ, KTH, Klövern, Urban ICT Arena and the City of Stockholm, with financing from Vinnova via Drive Sweden, among others.  
  •  Two autonomous electric buses are operating the route in Kista Science City, between Victoria Tower and Kista Galleria, for six months. The service is in operation on weekdays. Travelling with the buses is free of charge.   
  •  The buses follow a virtual track recorded in advance. They are steered using laser radar and have a satellite-based positioning system to navigate. If anyone or anything is at risk of colliding with the buses they stop. 
  •  The buses are designed for 11 passengers (including six seated) and one attendant. 

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