Daimler’s new connected and semi-autonomous bus, which has just begun trials in the Netherlands, is able to recognize traffic lights, communicate with them, and safely negotiate junctions controlled by them, using vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) equipment, that could soon become standard for all intersections and vehicles.
Daimler hopes the system will help to address worldwide traffic problems in densely populated areas and metropolitan regions by enabling smoother interactions with surrounding traffic. It believes the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot is an indication of how all vehicles will operate in the future, with its connected and semi-automated technologies enabling it to operate more safely, efficiently and comfortably than conventional vehicles.
The CityPilot technology used in the Future Bus is based on the system fitted to the autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros truck with Highway Pilot that was originally presented two years ago, and has since been demonstrated in several self-driving and platooning projects. The technology has undergone substantial further development, specifically for use in a city bus, with numerous added functions.
The CityPilot system can also recognize obstacles, including pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously. The vehicle approaches bus stops automatically, where it opens and closes its doors, without direct input from the driver.
Fitted with a high-performance GPS system, the bus uses 11 cameras to scan the road and surroundings, while long- and short-range radar systems constantly monitor the route ahead. Due to its use of data fusion technologies, all the data received creates an extremely precise picture and allows the bus to be positioned within inches. This relieves the driver’s workload and improves efficiency, as the bus’s smooth, predictive driving style saves wear and tear, while lowering fuel consumption and emissions.
The 40ft (12m) long Future Bus is based on the globally best-selling Citaro platform, with an interior that features an open-plan design in the passenger compartment, which is divided into three zones for different lengths of stay. Designer seats are loosely arranged along the walls in each zone, and bus operators are able to relay information and entertainment via large monitors in the middle segment of the passenger compartment.
The Future Bus is making its first public journeys on part of Europe’s longest BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) route in the Netherlands, which links Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with the town of Haarlem. The 12.4-mile route (20km) is a real challenge for the vehicle, as it has numerous bends and passes through tunnels and across junctions with traffic lights. The Future Bus has a top speed of 43.5mph (70km/h) on the open road, and operates automatically throughout the journey. The driver does not need to operate the accelerator or brake at all, and only needs to take the wheel in accordance with traffic regulations when there is oncoming traffic. However, the driver is able to intervene and take control at any time if required.