AI or artificial intelligence has revolutionized almost every area of modern life, including the means of transportation. The Swiss community of Sitten has already extended the test phase of the autonomous buses, called SmartShuttle. A pilot project in Estonia is already running its autonomous buses in the country’s capital. Even an autonomous tram has been presented by the Chinese train manufacturer, this tram not only operates without a driver, but it runs without rails too. Germany has already been trialling automation in transportation for quite some time.
One such example is an autonomous electric bus launched by NTUsg and Volvo Buses. This 12-meter, 36-seater electric bus is equipped with quite a few sensors and navigation controls managed by a comprehensive AI navigation system. This driverless bus can move through dense traffic and under all tropical weather conditions. This bus has already undergone many rounds of testing at the autonomous vehicle test centre at NTU, and very soon, it will ply the roads.
Apart from this, ST Engineering, in collaboration with the Sentosa Development Corporation and Singapore’s Ministry of Transport, is developing Mobility-on-Demand-Vehicles (MODVs). These autonomous minibuses are already deployed on Sentosa Island for intra-island travel public trials in 2019. Commuters can call for the MODV via an app on their smartphones or through information kiosks. Besides, ST Engineering’s 40-seater autonomous buses will be plying public roads in Singapore by 2020. Likewise, many other countries are trialling autonomous buses. This means very soon; most states will have autonomous buses running in the cities.
Benefits of Autonomous Buses
SafetyFirst things first, the most significant advantage of autonomous buses is safety. According to reports, more than 37,000 people die in accidents every year, out of which 95% are due to human errors. Distracted driving, driving under drug or alcohol influence, make the roads unsafe. Self-driving buses are meant to provide safe and enjoyable rides to the commuters. Autonomous vehicles, including intercity buses, will perform defensive yet assertive driving in a mixed traffic environment.
- Efficient Transportation
Autonomous buses will significantly be able to reduce traffic congestion by following the most optimal routes via live maps.
- Reduced Fuel Consumption
By having autonomous buses, fuel consumption can be reduced drastically.
- Reduced Emissions
Another essential benefit of having autonomous buses is reduced emissions. Almost all vehicles produce air pollution throughout their life cycle, which in turn impacts the air that we breathe. Having autonomous buses will account for reduced emissions, thereby improving air quality and saving the planet earth.
- Organized Traffic
Autonomous vehicles need to stay within their lane, monitor speed, and keep a safe distance from other travellers and potential obstacles. This will help to have organized traffic in the city.
- Prevent Bus Bunching
Bus bunching is a situation when two or more buses arrive at the same stop at the same time. However, with AI on the wheels, this situation can be prevented. AI will constantly be monitoring bus schedules, bus stop attendance, delays, alternate routes, and other factors to avoid bus bunching.
- Traffic Management
To err is human. Usually, intercity traffic is managed by bus drivers and dispatchers. Both drivers and dispatchers operate based on what they can see and hear, which sometimes results in human error and inefficiency. However, with autonomous buses, that’s not the case, as these buses will have access to hundreds of cameras and radar feeding back real-time data along with predictive analysis.
- Ease to the Commuters
As said earlier, self-driving buses are meant to provide ease to the commuters. Now, with autonomous vehicles running in the city, passengers will have no problem. Mass transit will be connected to a single mobile app. Commuters will need to pay a flat fee for transportation on one of many types of autonomous vehicles such as buses, trains, cars, and shuttles. With the help of the single AI-linked app, commuters would be able to book passage, buy tickets, and review ever-changing schedules. In addition to this, commuters will also have the option to pick the best ride-share solution that fits their needs.
How will driverless buses impact the future of bus drivers?
Undoubtedly, self-driving technology is good for those who rely on cars or busses as their primary source of transport. But for the ones who make a living by driving, driverless vehicles are a severe threat. Approximately 1 million drivers, including over 150,000 transit bus drivers and nearly 500,000 school bus drivers, are on the verge of losing their jobs in the U.S. alone.
Most bus drivers have begun to realize that more and more automation will eventually impact total employment. Some may, however, be reskilled by their companies, and some drivers may leave the driving and would start something of their own. However, the ones who don’t know what they should do can consider learning digital skillsets to earn their livelihood. We all know that the world is moving towards absolute digitalization, and people with digital skillset will be needed to perform the task.