FOCUS: Daimler presents autonomous bus of the future
The world’s biggest bus manufacturer, Daimler Buses, is systematically extending its technological leadership. The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot has driven autonomously for the first time on a route of approximately 20 kilometers in Amsterdam. On a section of the longest bus rapid transit (BRT) line in Europe, the bus drives at speeds up to 70 km/h, stops to the nearest centimeter at bus stops and traffic lights, drives off again automatically, passes through tunnels, brakes for obstacles or pedestrians and communicates with traffic signals. The driver is on board and monitors the system, but with a much easier task than before. Daimler Buses is the world’s first manufacturer to put a city bus into automated operation in a real-life traffic situation.
Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG for Daimler Trucks & Buses: “With our Highway Pilot, we showed nearly two years ago that autonomous driving will make long-distance truck transport safer and more efficient. We are now putting this technology into our city buses with CityPilot. The system is a further development of Highway Pilot, especially for big cities. It allows us to drive partially autonomously on specially marked bus lanes. This makes public transport safer, more efficient and more productive. More people can travel from A to B quickly, punctually and in comfort. To the benefit of all: bus operators, bus drivers and passengers.”
Hartmut Schick, Head of Daimler Buses: “In addition to our strong product range, it’s above all our technological competence and innovative strength that make Daimler Buses so successful worldwide. The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot once again demonstrates our leading role in the bus business. We will claim this position also in the future. That’s why we are investing approximately €200 million in the further development of our city-bus portfolio. The advantages of CityPilot for our customers are clear: Our Future Bus operates fuel efficiently and with minimal stress on the engine. That has a positive impact on operating and maintenance costs, vehicle lifetime and availability.”
CityPilot for autonomous driving: fascinating technology enhances safety, efficiency and comfort
The first step towards fully automated driving with buses in urban traffic consists of BRT lines with separate lanes. The Future Bus recognizes whether the route is suitable for automated driving and informs the driver accordingly. The bus driver then presses a button and CityPilot is activated. One condition is that the driver does not press the accelerator or brake pedal and does not steer, because any driver activity overrules CityPilot – the driver is always in charge of driving and can take over at any time. CityPilot comprises current assistance systems, those used in Mercedes-Benz coaches for example, as well as additional systems, some of which have been taken over from Daimler Trucks and further developed for urban traffic. The equipment includes long- and short-range radar, a large number of cameras and the satellite-controlled GPS navigation system. The intelligent connectivity of the cameras and sensors is pioneering, and allows a precise picture of the surroundings and the exact position of the bus.
On the road in the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot
Take Amsterdam as an example: signals from special traffic lights ahead of the bus. Two red lights next to each other mean stop, two white lights one above the other mean go ahead. The white lights come on and the bus starts gently and follows its lane. CityPilot recognizes the traffic lights with its sophisticated camera system. In addition, the vehicle communicates via Wi-Fi with the route infrastructure, receiving information on traffic-light status. This means that the bus can take advantage of a “green wave” of traffic lights. Two bridges, a tunnel. The bus safely stays in its lane. After leaving the built-up area, it accelerates to the allowed 70 km/h. The maximum speed is programmed; even at this speed the driver does not steer. The bus arrives at the bus stop in automated mode. It stops, opens and closes the doors, and drives away again. Red lights ahead; the bus independently brakes gently and comes to a standstill safely. While the lights are changing, pedestrians are still crossing the road. The bus waits, lets them cross, and does not drive away until the road is clear. In order to avoid a collision, CityPilot has an automatic braking system that decelerates the vehicles as required.
The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot therefore significantly enhances road safety. Thanks to its anticipatory driving style, it improves efficiency, puts less stress on the engine and reduces fuel consumption and emissions. And with its smooth, fluent progress, it also enhances passenger comfort.
With this technology, Daimler Buses is following the development path of Daimler Trucks, which will bring Highway Pilot to series maturity by the end of the decade. Daimler Buses will develop bus-specific aspects of the CityPilot system towards series application independently – like driving to and away from bus stops.
Systematic work on future generations of city buses
The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot as a technology carrier will supply Daimler Buses with findings for this systematic further development of the city bus of the future. That will focus on emission-free drive systems, the further development of driver-assistance systems and the partial automation of driving functions (given the appropriate legal framework), the connectivity of bus and infrastructure such as BRT operating systems, and the electric/electronic architecture.
A more attractive city bus with a revolutionary design
The Mercedes-Benz Future Bus is much more than just a technology carrier for autonomous driving: For this city bus, the Daimler Buses team has developed a specific, attractive vision for public transport that breaks with many conventions. The roughly twelve meter long solo bus on the basis of the global bestseller Citaro goes completely new ways in terms of design. For example, it appeals with an asymmetrical and thus more modern and attractive exterior design. The interior is open and light. The completely low-floor bus is divided into three areas: The “service” area is at the front near the driver; the “express” area for short journeys with a focus on standing room and quick passenger flow is in the middle. Behind that is a “lounge” area where passengers spend more time. Their smartphones can be charged wirelessly, inductively that is. The completely redesigned cockpit is an integrated part of the whole space. The driver receives the required information on a large display in an innovative presentation style, and can concentrate fully on his or her core tasks. An electronic ticket system dispenses with the conventional selling and checking of tickets by the driver. The ticket system is an important element of the bus’s connectivity.
BRT lines are predestined for autonomous driving
A constant route in a separate lane, a clearly defined schedule, clear and identical procedures at bus stops: public-transport buses on BRT lines are predestined for autonomous driving. That is why Daimler Buses sent its Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot on its first journey on a section of Europe’s longest BRT line in Amsterdam. It connects Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport with the city of Haarlem. The nearly 20-kilometer route presents the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with a genuine challenge: It has plenty of bends, passes through tunnels and traffic lights. Thanks to CityPilot technology, the bus easily masters the route.
The advantages of BRT systems are that they are quick to establish for urban and traffic planners, as well as being inexpensive and flexible. They reduce traffic as well as exhaust and noise emissions, increase journey speeds and thus improve the overall quality of life. Daimler Buses has therefore always been a pioneer of such systems. According to experts, there are now about 180 BRT systems on all continents with a total fleet of approximately 40 000 buses. They convey some 30 million passengers every day. New BRT routes are being planned and designed all the time, with advice and support from Daimler Buses traffic experts in cities all over the world, providing a service that is unique in the industry. Above all, South America is regarded as a BRT region; its rapidly growing metropolises are making good use of BRT systems.