Israel will be one of the first countries to trial self-driving buses, as it explores ways to automate mass transit options. This step was taken to reduce traffic jams as well as improve safety and improve service.
Four bus companies have been selected for initial trials, namely Egged, Metropolin, Dan and Nateev Express. Of course, the first test rides of those self-driving buses won’t be available to the public, with each company tasked with proving the safety, viability and business viability of their self-driving vehicles, which will be on closed roads.
Once approved, the aggressive strategy will see the self-driving vehicle driving on public roads, using dedicated bus lanes for a two-year trial period. The goal is to transition to a fleet of self-driving vehicles that operate without a driver at all in the next few years.
According to The Jerusalem Post, one of the motivators behind the move was to address Israel’s labor shortage problem, as the country has a shortage of bus drivers. The government is providing half of the NIS’s 61 million New Shekel ($2.4 million) fund, with the Israel Innovation Authority and Ayalon Highway also taking part.
While no self-driving technology provider has been named yet, there are reportedly 600 smart transport startup companies based in Israel alone, with the number of businesses focused on self-driving vehicles growing by 26 percent annually.
“The State of Israel is leveraging autonomous vehicles to improve Israel’s public transportation, which will ultimately turn Israel into a world leader in self-driving public transport enabling Israeli companies to become global leaders in this sector,” said IIA chairman Dr. Ami Appelbaum.
While self-driving cars and taxis are often in the spotlight, automating mass transit options like buses will offer cities another way to encourage use of public transit with reliable service and increased frequency.