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Mercedes-Benz autonomous bus might finally make buses cool
By Matthew Hansen • 20/07/2016
German marque show off semi-autonomous bus in latest video
Catching the bus in New Zealand isn't cool, and I'm not sure it's ever been cool. Haggard old men do heinous things in the back row of seats, people wearing flat-peak caps play awful music through their phone's loud speaker for all to hear, and everyone always just seems to wear scowling faces perpetually.
I like trains more. They're cool.
But maybe the latest piece of tech wizardry from Mercedes-Benz can go some way to change it. This is the very cleverly named 'Future Bus' (go figure), fitted with semi-autonomous 'CityPilot' technology, and perhaps the least efficient passenger seating arrangement ever seen in bus history.
“The technology of the CityPilot in the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus is based on that of the autonomously driving Mercedes-Benz Actros truck with Highway Pilot presented two years ago,” say the marque.
“It has however undergone substantial further development specifically for use in a city bus, with numerous added functions. The CityPilot is able to recognise traffic lights, communicate with them, and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. It can also recognise obstacles, especially pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously. It approaches bus stops automatically, where it opens and closes its doors. And not least, it is able to drive through tunnels.”
Though I can never see myself adopting it any time soon, I don't mind semi-autonomous and autonomous features in cars. And on a bus it makes even more sense. As Mercedes-Benz themselves note, the added tech helps improve safety both in terms of driver fatigue and collision prevention, and they also contribute to improved omissions and fuel consumption.
“Just under a dozen cameras scan the road and surroundings, while long and short-range radar systems constantly monitor the route ahead. There is also a GPS system. Thanks to data fusion, all the data received create an extremely precise picture and allow the bus to be positioned to within centimetres,” they add.
Add to that it looks quite neat. A bit like a BMW i3 that ate five other BMW i3s.
If you're cynical of the technology, that's understood. Part of me is too — particularly in light of Tesla's recent issues with its semi-autonomous system. But Mercedes-Benz have tested their Future Bus on a 20-kilometer route from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport to Haarlem, with success. Though it'd be interesting to see whether a commute through the highly treacherous Auckland City would fry its digital brains.