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Planes, Trains and Autonomous Automobiles?

The American Bus Association recently published an article on autonomous buses in ABA Insider. "Recently we all watched as Daimler Buses put its autonomous city bus into a real-time traffic loop—driving a 12-plus mile route in Amsterdam," Melanie Hinton writes.

The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot drove on a section of the longest bus rapid transit line in Europe, reaching speeds up to 43 miles per hour and stopping at bus stops and traffic lights. Moreover, the bus drove off from stops automatically, braked for obstacles and pedestrians, passed through tunnels and communicated with traffic signals.

Where was the driver throughout all of this?

Onboard—but only to monitor the system.

Cars are getting smarter as new models do more and more to help drivers be safer on the road. Newer models on the road feature auto-parking, lane warning, intelligent cruise control, emergency braking and more.

"Some analysts and manufacturers predict that the first true autonomous vehicle will be in production and on the road by 2019, at the earliest," writes Hinton.

But how will these vehicles be introduced to the traveling public?

While consumers won't be too interested in the first strings of autonomous vehicles, taxi companies, rental car companies and transit corporations might well be hopping onboard.

Consumers who want to purchase a fully autonomous car would expect it to operate in most parts of the country or, ideally, the entire continent. Not to mention in all non-extreme weather situations. For fully autonomous vehicles to reach the consumer's expectations, two important elements are necessary: Detailed maps need to be created and maintained, and algorithms need to support various weather conditions such as dry weather, light rain, heavy rain and snow.

Fully autonomous vehicles can operate much earlier on a limited set of predefined routes. The first fully autonomous vehicles are much more likely to appear within public transportation systems or privately owned transportation companies in select urban regions. Such vehicles could provide local mobility as a service at a much lower cost than today's individually owned vehicles and taxis.

While it appears that transportation to a destination won't change for the traveling public anytime soon, we could be on the verge of a revolution regarding transportation within popular urban destinations.

For more information, misconceptions and answers regarding fully autonomous vehicles, visit

Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.

Photo courtesy of Daimler Buses.


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