Proterra announces the development of autonomous bus system
Self-driving technology is shifting to the bus lane.
Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, just announced its three-phase plan to create the self-driving public transit system of the future, filled with autonomous, emission-free electric buses. The company says the move to autonomy should make mass transit safer and more efficient than ever before.
The company is partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno’s Intelligent Mobility program to make it happen. The university’s Living Lab Coalition, which is supported by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Washoe County, Nevada, will allow the self-driving system to be developed on the streets of Reno, Sparks, and Carson City.
The program’s three phases will break up the research and development into individual parts. The first phase will launch on June 1, with a Proterra bus tricked out with sensors carrying passengers and a driver along a fixed route in Reno.
Phase two will focus on turning all of the data collected from those sensors into a working self-driving system. The third phase, which is a bit further out in the future and depends on a fully-functional autonomous platform, will consist of Proterra licensing and commercializing the system for use beyond just one route on the Nevada streets.
The hope is to get an autonomous bus on the road by 2019.
Buses, trucks, and cars
Different vehicles face different challenges. That’s true for autonomous cars, too. The autonomous systems needed for commercial self-driving trucks, for example, are different than what you’ll find under the hood of a consumer sedan.
Proterra’s plan sets it apart from autonomous programs from traditional carmakers and tech companies, which are largely focused on the vehicle and its own relation to traffic on the road. Instead, the bus-based self-driving tech will be built around the specialized demands of public transit systems on the whole, particularly when it comes to handling the dense traffic conditions and patterns that come along with most bus routes.
While Proterra is calling its program “the first autonomous bus program in the United States,” the state of Nevada has already dabbled with a self-driving public transport. Back in January, Las Vegas teamed with NAVYA and Keolis to bring autonomous shuttle service to the strip on a trial basis, with hopes for potential expansion later this year.