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Cars and Transportation

Berlin tests driverless buses

Joshua Stein | Nicole Goebel
August 16, 2019

There's no steering wheel, no driver and no charge: Self-driving buses will trial in traffic in Berlin until the end of 2019.

Self-driving bus in Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/Bildagentur-online/Schöning

Self-driving buses hit the road in Berlin on Friday, making the German capital the latest city to boast autonomous vehicles on the roads. Germany's first autonomous bus on a public road was launched in the Bavarian town of Bad Birnbach in 2017.

Hamburg's Hafencity district also started trialing a self-driving bus earlier this week.

The six-seater buses are powered by electricity and will trial in the northwest of the German capital until the end of 2019. Passengers will not have to pay to use the service.

"We believe that self-driving small buses are a clever addition to our big yellow buses, for example in areas with narrow roads or strict speed limits," the head of Berlin public transport operator BVG, Sigrid Nikutta, said, adding that bus drivers would still be needed as the driverless buses would not replace all traditionally operated vehicles anytime soon.

The vehicles will have a member of staff permanently on board, in case of difficulties, BVG added.

Read more: Rental bikes or e-scooters: Who will win Berlin's urban mobility battle?

Limited speeds

The buses will be able to travel at up to 15 kph (9 mph). They will initially only cover a 600-meter distance from the end of the U6 metro line to Lake Tegel.

They were developed by French firm EasyMile, which already supplies more than 100 cities with the autonomous vehicles.

The director of the Berlin Agency for Electromobility, Gernot Lobenberg, said it was an attempt to "bring new technology like highly automated vehicles into the real world." Berlin had previously tested autonomous buses away from public roads, on the premises of Berlin's Charite hospital, for example.

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