We’ve been hearing about several up-and-coming trends in the vehicle industry for a long time. Ride-sharing is the “now” thing, as are emissions-cutting electric vehicles, and autonomous vehicles represent the future of motoring. That future has already arrived in the German spa town of Bad Birnbach with autonomous mini-buses taking to the roads.
The ride has all the characteristics of the new transport everyone’s been talking about. It’s an electric vehicle, it’s shareable, it’s environment and disabled-friendly, and it’s safe.
No Safety Scandals for Deutsche Bahn
Anyone who has been watching developments in autonomous cars with interest will know that there have been some nasty incidents involving autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles. There was the autonomous Uber cab that killed a woman in Arizona, and Tesla took a blow to its safety record when its semi-autonomous vehicles failed to recognize hazards and crashed. Google’s autonomous car tests have also not been without incident.
Events such as these may have led us to believe that we’re still a long way away from customizable and safe autonomous transport. However, Deutsche Bahn, owners of the new public transport service working with its Frankfurt-based autonomous vehicle brand ioki, isn’t taking any chances.
Although the vehicle has no steering wheel or accelerator, an operator is ready to intervene in case the vehicle’s autonomous systems don’t work as they’re supposed to. That’s just for the present. Once the ioki buses have proved their mettle, the operator may well be dispensed with. It seems as if that time isn’t too far in the future.
A People-Friendly Solution for Public Transport
For now, ioki sees its buses as a supplement to public transport as we currently know it rather than a replacement. The company says that it’s providing a “last mile” solution, filling the gap where public transport ends and people’s transport needs begin.
The Bad Birnbach bus illustrates the concept, taking people the last 700 meters from the town center to the thermal springs that are the town’s biggest tourist attraction. But there’s more in store. Ioki has already built in the capacity to summon its vehicles using a mobile phone app, and that would allow people to call for a ride from any location. The vehicle would then take them to the nearest public transport stop.
Ioki Public Transport In Bad Birnbach, Germany[osm_map_v3 map_center=”48.443009,12.9940911″ marker_latlon=”48.4341204,13.0865993″ height=”400″ mwz=”true” map_border=”none” zoom=”4″ type=”osm”] People in rural areas are underserved with public transport options too and may even own a vehicle just because they need to get from home to the train station or bus stop. Even when the car in question is environment-friendly, it places a financial burden on its owner and contributes to traffic congestion.