January 20, 2017
Greece Driverless Buses Being Tested, Is This A Glimpse Of The Future?

Driverless buses are being tested in Greece, giving a glimpse into the future of transportation.

The buses are a "European project to revolutionize mass transport and wean its cities off oil dependency over the next 30 years," according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Trikala, a rural farming town in northern Greece with an approximate 80,000 population, has been chosen as the lucky town to test out the French-built CityMobil2 buses, which will be free for patrons and will not feature a bus driver. The bus trials started last week, and will continue through February, 2016.

Throughout the past year, CityMobil2 buses have been tested in La Rochelle, a town located near its base in western France, on a campus in Lausanne, Switzerland, and also in a town near Helsinki, Finland. Each of the testing sites were in controlled conditions, and produced no accidents.

The Greece driverless buses, however, will be the first to really take on actual traffic situations, with narrow, winding streets. Although the buses don't have drivers, they don't look like what you would picture a futuristic vehicle would look like. Think of a combination of a golf cart and an ice cream truck, and you have a CityMobil2. The buses are battery operated and hold only 10 passengers at a time. The are controlled by a "GPS and supplementary sensors, including lasers and cameras, that send live data to a control center." They only move at approximately 20 kph (12 1/2 mph)."There were cities bidding for this project all over Europe. They offered relatively restricted urban areas. But we said we could make it happen in a downtown environment and we won," Odisseas Raptis, who heads the city's digital project department, e-Trikala, said. "We have a 2.4-kilometer (1.5-mile) route, the bus route. It's mixed with traffic, with pedestrians, with bicycles, with cars... That hasn't been done before."

Robosoft, the company that created the bus, trained with Vasilis Karavidas, chief technician for the project in Greece. Karavidas said each vehicle will be monitored by a driver in the control center who can override the system.

"It's as if they are in here and they can stop the bus if they want to, if something goes wrong," he said.

Senior transport analyst Philippe Crist at the International Transport Forum, an OECD think-tank based in Paris, discussed the revolutionary transportation trends.

"We too often look at technological changes in isolation," said Crist. "There is a good chance that these technologies will create entirely new uses that we can only poorly grasp today. The reality is that everything is changing around these technologies and it is plausible that society may lose interest in owning cars or using fixed-service public transport — especially if these technologies allow better alternatives to emerge."

So far, CityMobil2 has derived mixed feelings from the citizens of Trikala. Some are upset about human jobs being given to robots, and losing out on their parking spots, while others are excited for a new technology to be tested in their town.

"I was saying … a bus without a driver, how could it be?" an elderly woman asked. "But I really enjoyed it and had no problem. It's like a regular bus. I will use it, since it passes through my neighborhood."

"I think it's wonderful. Think how many people will come to Trikala to see this. It's new and innovative," Michalis Pantelis said. "It reminds me of the toy cars my grandchildren play with."

What do you think about Greece's driverless buses? Leave your comments below.

[Photo via Twitter]