Autonomous electric buses reinvented
Jul 28, 2016 Dr Peter Harrop
There is a frenzy of investment by in fully autonomous cars, some without even a steering wheel, but it is almost entirely supplier push. Virtually no private individual is interested in buying one. It is very different with fleets such as taxis where potential corporate purchasers such as Uber see many benefits including cost and space saving. It is envisaged that, at quiet times, fully autonomous buses could automatically park well away from congested city centres and be summoned on demand. Autonomous buses will safely tailgate to speed travel and driver space can be utilisled by passengers, both advances leading to more intensive, efficient road use.
The result is intended to be less pollution and road congestion and more flexible, responsive, safer services moving more people. Private cars would eventually be banned and ugly city parking converted to better uses. Indeed some cities are jumping the gun on that aspect and replacing city centre multi-story car parks with cleaner, more attractive amenities. Autonomous buses are also part of that overall vision. Tesla announced in July 2016 that it will make pure electric versions that move people faster. By contrast, Mercedes remains more committed to hybrid buses for now and it has been designing and testing concept buses with luxury interiors to attract more custom.
Also in July 2016, the Mercedes-Benz CityPilot self-driving bus program had one of its Future Bus vehicles drive 20 kilometers in the Netherlands, on a route that connected Amsterdam's Schiphol airport with the nearby town of Haarlem. The bus had to stop at traffic lights, pass through tunnels, and navigate among pedestrians.
The program, has origins in the transport truck-focused Highway Pilot program debuted by Mercedes two years earlier. That autonomous vehicle program demonstrated fuel saving travel in close convoy but did not face the added challenges of navigating an urban environment, however, which makes the Future Bus successful test run a major achievement.
Daimler including Mercedes has been losing global market share in electric buses due to the market becoming dominated by manufacture in China for China and impressive value engineering and adoption of new technology by the Chinese so it is good to see the Germans respond by reinventing the bus.
The Mercedes self driving bus has three separate zones based on how long of a trip a passenger is signed to be on board for, and there are displays for entertainment and other media, as well as a ceiling designed to resemble a forested canopy. Remember that WiFi is now one of the top demands of passengers nowadays and a smoother, quieter ride makes access to social media easier. The world is moving on.
For more see the IDTechEx reports, Autonomous Vehicles Land Water Air 2015-2025, Electric Buses 2016-2026, Lithium-ion Batteries for Buses 2016-2026, Industrial and Commercial Electric Vehicles on Land 2016-2026, Electric Vehicle Traction Motors, Belt Driven & Integrated Starter Generators 2016-2026, Power Electronics for Electric Vehicles 2016-2026 and on other aspects.