First driverless electric bus route launched in German town

Driverless public transport has great potential, a mobility specialist said in Berlin on Wednesday as a driverless electrical bus line went into operation in the western German town of Monheim am Rhein.

“Everything that pioneers are facilitating is good and important,” Andreas Knie, a researcher with a Berlin centre for research into mobility concepts, told dpa.

“The first usable vehicles that are undertaking their initial trials are now available from very few providers,” he said.

This was reason for optimism, Knie said. “They are able to go where classical buses cannot not. They can fill gaps, they can manage the famous last mile perfectly.”

Driverless buses would be useful in rural areas and small towns without the dense transport networks of large cities, he predicted.

The first driverless buses in Germany have started operating in Monheim am Rhein in the state of North Rhine Westphalia. The five electrically powered minibuses link the bus station with the Old Town, travelling the 2 kilometres every 15 minutes.

The buses are not fully autonomous. An operator on board takes over at intersections and monitors the rest of the trip.

In Bad Birnbach in Bavaria, a driverless bus has been running a route to the railway station since 2017, but not in normal traffic.

Test projects are underway in Berlin, Munich and other German cities.

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