Earlier this week, Mercedes-Benz’s self-driving bus program saw its Future Bus drive 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in the Netherlands, marking a milestone for self-driving mass transit technology. The bus made its journey on part of the Netherland’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route from Amsterdam’s Schipol airport to the nearby town of Haarlem.

The semi-automated bus had to go through multiple traffic lights and tunnels as well as to make tight bends in the road and, mostly importantly, to navigate among pedestrians.

Future Bus is equipped with almost a dozen cameras and long- and short-range radar systems that scan the road and surroundings and monitor the route ahead, in addition to being outfitted with a GPS system. According to the company’s website, the vehicles are equipped with CityPilot, a technology made for navigating in the city, and which enables the bus to recognize and communicate with traffic lights as well as to safely negotiate junctions controlled by them. The bus is also capable of recognizing obstacles and braking autonomously for them – particularly if those obstacles are pedestrians on the road.

The semi-autonomous bus is ideally suited for BRT systems. Photo courtesy of Daimler.

The semi-autonomous bus is ideally suited for BRT systems. Photo courtesy of Daimler.

The bus has a top speed of 70 kilometers/hour (43 miles/hour), and is able to halt at bus stops, opens and closes its doors and communicates with traffic lights. According to the company’s website: “…the driver does not need to operate the accelerator or brake at all, and only needs to take the wheel in accordance with traffic regulations when there is oncoming traffic. However, the driver is able to intervene at any time and immediately take control if required.”

Designed specifically for city use – and ideally for BRT systems – the exterior design of the twelve-meter (almost 40-foot) long bus is inspired largely by city architecture. The interior – inspired by city squares and parks – is divided into three zones, each for a different length of stay.

mercedes-benz future bus

The interior is divided into three compartments. Photo courtesy of Daimler.

Future Bus was conceived of two years ago, when Daimler launched its semi-automatic Future Truck 2025 and Freightliner Inspiration, both of which utilize the company’s Highway Pilot program.