Volvo demonstrates operation of autonomous electric bus at depot


Volvo Buses has successfully completed one of the world’s first live demonstrations of an electric bus operating in fully-autonomous mode at a bus depot as part of the company’s program of moving towards safer, cleaner and more efficient public transport.

Volvo’s demonstration, held together with bus operator Keolis, took place at Keolis’ bus depot just outside of Gothenburg in Sweden. During the demonstration, the fully-electric 40-foot (12m) autonomous bus successfully drove itself between the parking bay and several workstations including cleaning, servicing and electric charging, before parking itself in the correct bay, with all activities performed while carrying passengers. The event was the latest in a number of successful demonstrations of autonomous buses carried out by Volvo in recent years. The demonstration was one of the first to take place in a real bus depot; one of the areas that that the company believes offers the greatest potential for automation.

Volvo is at the forefront of the development of autonomous buses and says the demo represents an important milestone in the move towards automated public transport. The company notes that in 10 years, an additional one billion people will most likely be living on the planet, most of whom will live in cities. This will create even greater demands on public transport, infrastructure and urban planning, which in turn needs to be managed in an even more sustainable and efficient way. Volvo believes that part of the answer will be connected, autonomous and electric buses, and is working with partners to pioneer sustainable public transport solutions to meet these challenges.

“This marks a very important step in our autonomous journey as we now have successfully shown the commercial benefits an autonomous solution can deliver in a bus depot,” explained Håkan Agnevall, president of Volvo Buses. “Autonomous buses in depots bring new benefits such as more efficient traffic flows, higher productivity, less damages and improved safety. The industry-common charging interface OppCharge is ideally suited for autonomous charging, eliminating the need to connect power cables to the bus in the depot. We are still many years away from seeing fully-autonomous buses on public roads, but since bus depots are confined areas with predictable and repetitive traffic flows, we see autonomous buses being used there much sooner. Working together with Keolis has given us this unique opportunity to test an autonomous bus in real conditions and will help us drive the development of autonomous solutions forward.”

Jan Kilström, CEO of Keolis in Sweden, commented, “The new mobility technology will be more common in 5-10 years. Bringing the new technology into today’s depot business and developing it will not only speed up development, it will improve our performance, ensuring that our passengers benefit over the coming years.”

Mats Peterson, local business manager for ABB Electrification in Sweden, which provided the pantograph charging system for the demo, said, “Our high-power electric bus chargers with automated rooftop connection enable the efficient charging of autonomous buses, and we look forward to the future of this transport innovation together with Volvo Buses.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.