Finland is set to significantly reduce urban congestion and harmful emissions by launching a new electrically powered autonomous bus service in its capital city Helsinki. Authorities in Helsinki have formally disclosed plans in relation to the new public transportation system that will revolutionize the city.
The new autonomous electric RoboBusLine will be launched in Autumn this year following a successful trial period of the service. A spokesman for the innovative program has claimed that it represents a shift from an experimental phase to regular scheduled public transit service with self-driving buses. In a statement issued to the press, he highlighted the benefits of the program, saying it will reduce the cost of transportation and will improve access to public transit, reduce urban congestion and traffic delay, and will significantly decrease the impact of harmful toxic emissions.
In August 2016, an EU financed initiative which was supported by six of the largest cities in Finland was launched in Helsinki, and the program was entitled ‘The Sohjoa Project'. Two EasyMile EZ10 electric minibuses were deployed in Helsinki. Reportedly, the initiative is part of the EU-financed mySMARTLife program, in which European cities are encouraged to develop energy efficient mobility to reduce energy consumption in cities by 10-15 percent.
The electric minibuses have been tested in real traffic conditions in the Finnish capital - and they will continue to be monitored in urban areas until August of this year. There is an operator on-board every bus in case of an emergency and travels at about 7mph (11 km per hour), learning the route and accruing knowledge as it transits. Project manager, Oscar Nissin of Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences said the primary objective of the project is to establish the best practices for how we can complement public transit services with self-driving buses. He said: "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 Sohjoa project has confirmed it plans on shuttling passengers between Helsinki's Mustikkamaa recreational island to Helsinki Zoo in July and August and this will subsequently pave the way for the RoboBus to be deployed later in the year. Project leader and Metropolia's smart mobility program director, Harri Santamala, explained that the "RoboBus will allow us to test operation in everyday public transit conditions. It will be used to study the long-term operability of self-driving buses and customer behavior.
Experts in the field of self-driving technology have suggested that Finland is the ideal location for a self-driving bus to launch, as the country's law does not require that a vehicle has to have a driver. Analysts have also claimed that the new RoboBus could solve a persistent problem in Helsinki which is the transportation of riders from a regular public transit to their own homes. The statement added: "Automated, remote-controlled bus service could markedly reduce the costs of the last-mile service and improve access to public transit. The ultimate goal is to increase public transit use and so to reduce cars and needs to drive in the city."