Helsinki has been determinedly testing robot buses since 2016. The pilots have developed and expanded year by year. This year, you can get on a self-driving bus in living lab district Kalasatama and on a record-long 2.5 km route in the most eastern district Vuosaari.
Congested streets full of passenger cars are a challenge for growing cities around the world. Also Helsinki is looking for means to decrease traffic congestion as well as emissions and other climate impacts caused by motor vehicles. A key means to influence this is investment in public transportation, but its proportion of traffic has remained almost the same in recent years. However, self-driving robot buses could increase the popularity and efficiency of public transportation in the future. This is why Helsinki has been testing them for several years.
‘The aim is to use the pilots to learn as much as possible about robot buses even in the early stages of technological development, such as how residents receive them, how they function as a part of public transportation and what they can offer to the mobility of citizens,’ says Jari Honkonen, Project manager at the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki.
Robot buses can change public transportation significantly
Helsinki is committed to become carbon neutral by 2035 and, in line with this, recognises that problems associated to traffic and transport need to be tackled. Therefore, the city has laid down in its official strategy to act as a testbed and to promote new mobility technologies - of which automated demand-driven shuttle buses are a notable example. By offering residents an emission-free transportation option, robot buses support Helsinki’s goals of carbon neutrality.
“If the robot bus technology develops as expected, they can develop public transportation in a more cost-efficient direction and enhance service levels by expanding its coverage to areas where the lines do not currently reach, making departures more frequent and public transportation more reachable”, Jari Honkonen says.
There is still much to be tested around self-driving buses, so the pilots will continue for the years to come, ultimately contributing to making Helsinki the most functional smart city of the world.