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The Netherlands starts first driverless bus trial

ABR Staff Writer Published 01 February 2016

The Netherlands has started trial of a self-driving vehicle, Wepod in the campus of Wageningen University in the Dutch town of Wageningen.

This is first such trial in which Wepod will carry passengers on a 200m long street plying without a driver.

If the trial run is successful, there are plans to extend the route between the Food Innovation Strip to the Ede-Wageningen intercity railway station. Thus, an autonomous vehicle will drive itself on a public road amidst traffic for an extended period of time.

Apart from developing technology, there are several other issues to cater to, such as the certification, insurance, liability, human behaviour, legislation and road management and design will be examined during this testing phase.

For this purpose, educational institutions, companies and authorities will collaborate in several areas to develop this knowledge.

The bus trial was launched by the Netherland Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Schultz van Haegen said: "With the WEpod, we are entering a completely new stage of the voyage of discovery that the Netherlands embarked on with the aim of making transport more flexible, safer and cleaner.

" With this project we are taking new steps towards making self-driving transport a reality in practice. It is only through practical testing that we can acquire new knowledge, not just technical knowledge, but also knowledge regarding safety, liability and privacy.

"Moreover, this initiative opens up new economic opportunities for our automotive sector."

The WEpods can travel up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) per hour, but their speed is being limited to 25 km per hour for safety reasons.

And these buses would not be operated on days of snow, rain and during night.

"We want to be careful," Van der Wiel said.

"We first want the system to operate well on nice days like today before seeing how the vehicles handle heavy precipitation or fog."

WEpods operate with lasers, sensors, GPS and pre-programmed 3D maps of the route. The computer will make constant comparisons of the maps with real-life images being taken.

In the beginning, passengers as well as staff members can control the vehicle in case of emergencies with the help of a tablet.
Mapscape, Robot Care Systems and the Technical University of Delf are partners in the project.

Van der Wiel also said that the Technical University of Delft is the owner of this project and will take the responsibility, if something goes wrong.