Driverless cars have been in and out of the headlines, with steady progress in autonomous driving technology occasionally marred by the odd accident. The intelligent vehicles, fitted with thousands of sensors to mimic a human's driving prowess, have slowly been rolling out from the laboratories into commercial implementation. Continuing on this note, RATP, the transport authority of Paris, carried out a successful test run of the first ever driverless minibus, the EZ10, on open road.
The driverless EZ10 was previously tested in closed circuits, in Japan, Singapore and California, USA, and a road test was carried out in Helsinki, Finland. The bus can carry up to 12 passengers at a time, and after the trial run completed successfully, RATP is hoping that possible short-distance routes for these technologically advanced vehicles can be functional within as early as two years. "The autonomous vehicle presents an opportunity for new services notably in less densely populated areas," said RATP President Elisabeth Borne, in a statement to Agence-France Presse (AFP). This can allow easier commutes in less densely populated areas, alongside maintaining safety norms.
The minibus tested yesterday was manufactured by French technology firm Easymile, which could ply at a top speed of 25kmph, and was tested on a street with pedestrian paths near the river Seine. This, as RATP notes, is only the first of a series of tests to be held before driverless vehicles can be safely implemented on roads for public commute. The next test, that is scheduled to be undertaken later this year, will be a longer, more complicated one than yesterday's. The EZ10 will then traverse between Lyon and Austerlitz, two major hubs for passengers.
In terms of commercial implementation of driverless cars, Uber recently implemented self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, USA, late last month, and has plans to roll out commercial driverless vehicles in association with Volvo by 2021. Volvo, meanwhile, had announced plans to deploy 100 self-driving cars in China as part of its experiment towards smarter futures. Google has also been a notable advocate of self-driving car technology, and alongside carrying out its long term experiment with driverless cars in Mountain View, California, has also declared implementation of its technology in Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
Commercial locomotion is one area where driverless cars can prove particularly beneficial, as the manpower can then be allocated to other resources. With France already taking the first step, it remains to be seen if driverless cars are actually put to commercial use within the next two years, and how safe they prove in the long run.