A self-driving bus is cruising the Málaga streets. For two weeks, the bus has moved amongst the traffic – a first in Europe. The trial should show whether self-driving transport has a future in Spain and elsewhere.
Although Málaga has the scoop in Europe, it is not the first for a driverless vehicle. Pilot projects have been conducted with driverless vehicles for years. A protected route in Wageningen in the Netherlands had the first unmanned shuttle bus. Yet this is the first time a city bus takes to the public roads and, in principle, independently transports passengers.
The self-driving bus route runs from Malaga port to the city centre. The bus runs six times a day on a route of about eight kilometres transporting a maximum of sixty passengers.
Breakthrough to self-driving transport in Spain is not yet happening
For the time being, the bus is not completely without a driver. A driver is behind the wheel to intervene when necessary.
Also, Spanish law doesn’t as yet allow vehicles to move without a driver. At the moment, the breakthrough to self-driving transport is on hold until regulations have been passed. Also, safety cannot currently be guaranteed. For example, in 2018, a self-driving car killed a woman crossing the street.
Collaboration between Spanish companies and universities
The Spanish transport company Avanza is leading the project, working with eleven partners and universities. The self-driving bus project received financial support from the Spanish government. Avanza says the bus is equipped with cameras and sensors so there is always control over the bus. The municipality of Malaga has invested in ‘smart traffic lights’ that allow the bus to communicate. The bus also uses artificial intelligence to improve decisions made in traffic.
The self-driving bus runs around Malaga until March 13. After this trial period, all results will be evaluated.