Driverless robotbus pilot in Norway opened as part of project lead by Metropolia UAS
A self-driving bus is now providing an on-demand service and driving entirely without an operator on board inside Kongsberg Technology Park, Norway. A supervisor will monitor the bus from a control centre.
The self-driving bus, which is part of an Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme project titled “Sohjoa Last Mile”, has been operating inside the Technology Park since June 2021, but only now has it become possible to take the operator out of the bus and supervise the vehicle from a control centre instead. The control centre is manned by specially trained bus drivers from transport operator Vy.
The bus is programmed on a fixed route of ca. 3.4 km inside the Technology Park, and will now operate as an on-demand service. People inside the park can order the bus and specify the pick-up place and time. There are set bus stops that the bus drives between, and it operates on weekdays from 07:30 until 14:30.
Kongsberg Municipality leads the Norwegian pilot, with Brakar, Statens Vegvesen, Applied Autonomy and Vy as partners. The project, which also comprises pilots in Tallinn and Gdansk, is a research and development project which aims to analyse and test self-driving minibuses without an operator on board in order to make recommendations to policy makers.
– We in Kongsberg are confident to have the best partners on board in this ambitious project, and we are happy to have achieved this important milestone, says head of business development in Kongsberg Municipality Ingar Vaskinn.
The bus will drive on a closed track inside the Technology Park in Kongsberg, but in mixed traffic with pedestrians, trucks, cars, forklifts, and other industrial vehicles.
– Research and development projects like this one are important to quickly drive forward the progress of both technology and regulations, to ensure a safe introduction into ordinary public transport, says senior advisor Elisabeth Skuggevik from Statens Vegvesen.
Important for future solutions
The vehicle that is used in the Technology Park is an updated EasyMile third generation EZ10. This model has also been tested on route 450 in Kongsberg, which operates as a fixed bus route between the Technology Park and Kongsberg train station.
– The Sohjoa project is important for the development of the other projects that we have with self-driving buses in Kongsberg and in Drammen, with a view to being able to run the buses without an operator on board in the future. These advances make the technology more competitive, says Brakar’s CEO Terje Sundfjord.
When the bus operates entirely on its own, safety is ensured from a control centre inside the Technology Park. The control centre has been developed by Kongsberg-based solution provider Applied Autonomy in collaboration with EasyMile. The bus is continuously monitored via cameras that are filming both outside and inside the bus. If need be, the bus can be remotely stopped from the control centre. Passengers on board the bus can get in touch with the control centre at any time via an intercom inside the bus.
– This is the first step on the way to reaching the economic gain that is to be expected when multiple buses can be supervised simultaneously from the control centre, says Applied Autonomy’s CEO Olav Madland.
Operations without an operator on board will continue until the end of October 2021.