Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler has revealed its vision for the future of mass rapid transit. At the IAA commercial vehicles show in Germany, the automaker's bus division showed off the Future Bus with CityPilot, a next-gen connected bus that recently drove autonomously for 12.4 miles in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The Future Bus was designed for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Europe. The vehicle, which doesn't look all that different from modern buses, can operate autonomously up to 43.5 mph and bring itself to a halt literally on a dime at bus stops. The bus can interpret special signals from traffic lights using an advanced camera system, but a driver remains on board to monitor the system and take over when the route isn't suitable for autonomous mode. When conditions do allow it, the operator simply pushes the CityPilot button and lets the bus drive itself. Any steering, accelerator, or brake input immediately puts the driver back in control. The Future Bus also uses vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and is able to determine what pace it needs to keep to hit the most green lights. Like many modern Mercedes models, the Future Bus features automatic emergency braking.
"The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot once again demonstrates our leading role in the bus business. We will claim this position also in the future," said Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, member of the board of management of Daimler AG, in a release. "That's why we are investing approximately 200million ($221.4 million) in the further development of our city-bus portfolio."
The autonomous functions of the Future Bus are possible thanks in part to BRT's separate bus lanes, constant routes, clearly defined schedules, and universal procedures at bus stops. Daimler says that BRT lines are "predestined for autonomous driving."
Though the Future Bus will only service specific routes in Europe for now, it's possible similar autonomous buses could one day roll out in the U.S. as well. Should they? Tell us in the comments below.