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.