Mercedes-Benz Reveals Its Take on the Self-Driving Bus

Mercedes-Benz Reveals Its Take on the Self-Driving Bus

Even luxury automakers are taking a stab at the autonomous vehicle market these days.

Mercedes-Benz is the latest to throw their hat in the ring with an eye-catching design appropriately named “Future Bus.”

Featuring sleek lines and expansive window panes, the design truly does look like the bus of tomorrow. Leave it to Mercedes to make a great-looking vehicle.

But the Future Bus is about more than just aesthetics; it’s built to be uncommonly efficient as well.

  • The Future Bus uses Mercedes’ proprietary CityPilot technology that was originally introduced two years ago for the company’s self-driving Actros truck.
  • CityPilot is capable of detecting and recognizing different objects on the road and communicating with a city’s local infrastructure.

This means that the FutureBus will not only be able to predict when traffic lights are going to change, but also provide cities with valuable data about wear and tear in their roads.

In the FutureBus, CityPilot is programmed to automatically stop at bus stops along its route. The designers at Mercedes-Benz note that their self-driving software offers a gentle, smooth ride that allows riders to comfortably stand on the bus during busy commutes. The bus has a top speed of 70 km/hr (about 45 mph).

In July, the FutureBus passed its first major road test when it navigated more than 20 kilometers on complex section of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route in the Netherlands.

  • While a driver had to be at the wheel in order to maintain legal compliance, the bus was able to gracefully complete the route on its own.

The next step for Mercedes-Benz will be to start implementing the FutureBus on select BRT routes in Europe for further testing. Meanwhile, other companies are trialing similar technologies here in the United States as well.

Detroit Reveals Plans to Revitalize its Ailing Transit System

Detroit Reveals Plans to Revitalize its Ailing Transit System

In the first half of the 20th century, Detroit was one of the foremost hubs of industry and engineering in the United States. For decades, the Motor City manufactured millions of automobiles for drivers all over the world. Then, the energy crisis of the 1970s forced American automakers to scale back their operations, and the city fell on hard times.  Since then, Detroit has struggled to curb an economic collapse that left the city in bankruptcy in 2013.

City planners in Detroit have long identified a slow, fragmented public transit system as one of the chief obstacles to the city’s economic renewal.

  • In 2012, the Michigan State Legislature approved the creation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to bridge the gap between Detroit’s two independent transit services – the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).
  • Now, four years later, the RTA has unveiled its plan to overhaul Detroit’s transit system to make it faster, more accessible and commuter-friendly.

The RTA’s plan focuses primarily on revamping Detroit’s bus service.

  • New cross-county routes will be implemented to connect separate SMART and DDOT routes, eliminating the need for riders to transfer between lines and wait for multiple buses.
  • In addition, commuter express routes will run during rush hour between the city’s most populous areas and the places with the most employers.
  • Finally, the RTA plans to construct dedicated lanes for a bus rapid transit service to quickly move people around the city and surrounding suburbs.

 

The RTA is expected to ask voters to approve a $1.2 million tax levy to fund the project later this year. Many of Detroit’s residents hope that fixing the broken transit system will be a significant step forward in the city’s recovery.

Connecticut is Pioneering Bus Rapid Transit in America

Connecticut is Pioneering Bus Rapid Transit in America

Municipal bus systems in America aren’t known for being especially fast. They’re inexpensive and reliable, but if you need a fast mode of transport they’re typically not your best option. In any case, rapid is not an adjective most Americans would be likely to apply to their city’s buses.

In other parts of the world however, bus transit is actually quite speedy. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems were first developed in Brazil, and have since been adopted in many other countries in South America, Europe and Asia.

So what differentiates a BRT line from the bus transit systems we’re familiar with?

  • Passengers pay before they board
  • There are dedicated lanes and traffic signal priorities for buses
  • Bus stop platforms are level with bus doors

In essence, a BRT line acts as an above-ground metro rail system.

BRT lines also have a few distinct advantages over subway systems.

  • Most notably, they are far less expensive to build and maintain.
  • It’s also easier for city planners to adapt BRT lines to changes in the future.

In spite of these virtues, BRT lines have remained conspicuously absent from America’s roads until recently.

When it opened in the spring of last year, Connecticut’s BRT system became the longest of its kind in the country. It’s called CTfastrak, and it stretches nearly 10 miles between Hartford and New Britain.

CTfastrak has only been operating for a little over a year, but it’s already been very successful. The bus lanes were built over an abandoned Amtrak commuter line which made the project especially cost effective. State transit officials have plans to extend the system with other lines in the future.

Some cities such as Boston and Chicago have tried to develop BRT systems in the past, but they’ve struggled to implement them effectively. Many analysts in the transit industry are arguing that CTfastrak is currently the best, most effective BRT system in the country.

Hopefully before too long we’ll see more of these fast, efficient and affordable transit systems in other American cities as well.