Driverless minibuses will begin taking passengers in the eastern French city of Lyon at the weekend in a year-long experiment that officials are calling a "world first". The two electric vehicles, fitted with high-tech equipment including laser sensors, stereo vision and GPS, can ferry around 15 passengers at a top speed of 20 kilometres an hour. The initial route in the heart of the city will last 10 minutes and include five stops.
Manufactured by the French firm Navya and costing 200,000 euros ($225,000) apiece, a prototype was tested in 2013. The minibuses have already been tested in other French cities as well as in Sion, Switzerland, but without carrying passengers. Driverless electric minibuses made by other companies have also been tested in the western French city of La Rochelle as part of a European experiment.
Meanwhile, Dubai has unveiled its first driverless bus service, launching a month-long trial period for the electric vehicle with a view to expanding it across the futuristic Gulf city state. The 10-seat vehicle made its first trip on Thursday along a 700-metre stretch of road in downtown Dubai, near to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower.
Developed jointly by French group Easy Mile and Dubai-based Omnix, the minibus is powered by an electric motor and can hit speeds of 40 kilometres per hour. But, thanks to cutting-edge guidance technology, its developers say the bus can adapt its speed to the surrounding environment and even come to a complete halt if a pedestrian were to cross its path.
It can be programmed to navigate between Dubai’s main tourist attractions, including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, Dubai Opera and the Souk al-Bahar shopping centre, the emirate’s Road Transport Authority (RTA) said in a statement. The test run was “the first and very important stage in our efforts to introduce this type of vehicle into Dubai’s transport network,” RTA official Ahmed Bahrozyan told AFP.