Ford’s CEO Mark Fields said earlier this week the company would have a car on the road without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals by 2021, but Finland is not waiting around.
As we speak, two little box-shaped battery-electric self-driving buses not unlike in concept to what Ford and others hope to do are in service, hauling passengers on the streets of Helsinki‘s Hernesaari district.
Without a steering wheel or gas and brake pedals, the “EZ10” buses navigate the streets while contending with motorists and pedestrians. The work of France-based EasyMile, the EZ 10 bus is a joint venture between two other French companies — automaker Ligier and robotics firm Robosoft.
The vehicles don’t require special infrastructure to operate, as they use a mix of sensors to detect obstacles and navigate along virtual routes and negotiate hazards.
“This is actually a really big deal right now,” project manager Harri Santamala told Finland-based Uutiset. “There’s no more than a handful of these kinds of street traffic trials taking place, if that.”
Prior to this month-long test, the buses made trail runs in the Finnish city of Vantaa, but they traveled along routes closed to regular traffic.
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Apparently the Ministry of Transportation and Communication was impressed and gave the green light to see how the buses fared outside of a controlled environment.
Finland has no laws that require a driver behind the steering wheel, so it made an ideal venue to trial the EZ10.
Carrying up to 10 passengers, the vehicles travel their routes at a leisurely six miles-per hour, no doubt frustrating some motorists and a few joggers.
While the EZ10’s may seem like what we’d call a “magic bus” today, future generations may look back and wonder how we ever got around relying on human drivers.