Mercedes-Benz has done the world of self-driving and autonomous cars an enormous good deed by unveiling a self-driving concept bus they christened the ‘Future Bus.’ The unveiling was done at the beautiful city of Amsterdam in Holland today.
I declared this welcome news for the industry because it is an opportunity for everybody to take a step back from all the Tesla news. The news that is threatening the very fabric of autonomous and self-driving cars because of the crashes two Tesla models were involved in over the past two months.
In the first unfortunate accident, the passenger died when both he and the autopilot failed to apply the brakes in the moments before the crash.
Back to the good news from Amsterdam. From the pictures released by Mercedes Benz of the concept bus, you get the feeling this isn’t the sort of buses you would see in a typical urban center. I mean they are so stylish and beautiful you would think it were custom-made for a millionaire who is into big and unique gadgets.
The outside of the bus resembles any commuter bus made by Mercedes you might see commuting between cities and states all over the country. Once you step inside, it is almost like stepping into a digital fairy tale bus. Everything inside the bus is designed for the comfort of today’s tech savvy commuters.
Inside, the furnishing looks like something you get in a house furnishing magazine advert for gadget-crazy young executives. The seats are designed like modern pod seats so that commuters can recline easily while enjoying the ride to work. As for their mobile gadgets, they can charge them using the latest wireless charging technology.
And if they are bored, one of the things a commuter could do is just chat with the driver; perhaps ask him if he thinks the term, ‘driver’, can be applied to him. Because in this bus, computer softwares in the bus do all the driving. The driver is just there to take charge of emergencies that are beyond the capacity of the software. And the plan is to make those kinds of emergencies as rare as possible.
According to Mercedes Benz, the self-driving software is modeled on the Mercedes CityPilot which Mercedes started testing some years ago. The tests were on truckers who had to travel long distances. The system was fitted in their trucks to help them, if they wished, on highways that are not as crowded as towns.
However for the concept Future Bus, the autopilot system has been modified to interact effectively with traffic lights.
That means, at normal times, the bus would be able to know if traffic lights change colors and respond appropriately without using the in-car camera sensors as aid.
Talking about cameras, like all self-driving car concept, the bus comes equipped with them in addition to all the sensors needed to navigate efficiently and safely in a busy city. These cameras and sensors scan the road and are able to recognize obstructions and people walking along the side of the road.
They are also programmed to recognize bus stops where they can then automatically open and close the doors as passengers alight or enter the bus.
At the unveiling of the Future Bus, Mercedes played a video of the bus been tested in real life where it ferried passengers along a 19 km route that had all kinds of traffic, a tunnel, an airport and lanes dedicated to buses only.
It is safe to say the passengers in the video would never have a bus ride as comfortable as the one they had with the future car.
Though this is a concept bus, analyst believe the Future Bus is close to becoming reality than most of us think. This is indeed good news for the industry. Let’s just hope there won’t be a rash of setbacks like the accidents involving Tesla in the last couple of months.
Image credit: Mercedes-Benz