Self-driving bus…are we there yet?

Photo: wikipedia commons

By Paul Carton 

Your adventure awaits at the convention centre next weekend with the Easymile EZ10, the shuttle bus with a mind of its own, that wants to carry you and 14 other willing participants for a ride up to the 3 Arena at a speed of approximately 15km/hr. It is all part of  ‘The Future Mobility Showcase’ which is being organized by the DCC and will also feature new transport services such as shared bikes, e-bikes, electric scooters and car clubs. The event according to DCC chief executive Owen Keegan “is to encourage a debate on the future of transport and mobility in the city”.

The Easymile EZ10 is an autonomous shuttle bus which has already been tested in 20 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, North America and Europe. The majority of these autonomous shuttle buses, and there are few out there, are being made in France. One in particular made headlines on its debut last year in Las Vegas, when a truck backed into an autonomous shuttle bus owned by Keolis the French private transportation company, causing damage to its fender and cut short its tour of the city.

Technology is moving so fast that we are beginning to live in the society that was imagined in sci-fi movies we watched in our childhood but what effect could this particular technology have on society.

Case study: I recently availed of a Bus Éireann service from Westport to Achill Sound. The bus was scheduled to leave Westport for a quarter past six. But we actually ended up leaving at a quarter to seven, having to wait on the passengers on the Clifden to Westport bus, as they were getting on this bus to Achill. This would normally be a very frustrating experience be it for the bus driver who had everyone in hysterics and generally entertained in what looked like a spontaneous stand-up gig.  He knew everyone by name and you could tell everyone was quite fond of this character. Which leads to me think about a self-driving bus? OK, at present Dublin bus drivers won’t usually open the bus doors after they’ve closed them and I’m guessing the software on these self-drive buses won’t be programmed with compassion. But the effect that the Achill bus driver had was making the passengers feel at ease. How is that going to happen on a self-drive bus? Is there going to be on-board entertainment and that the occupation of a bus-driver will be now be entertainment coordinator. Next stop nobody knows.

The public will get a chance to ride the bus for free from 2pm to 5pm on Friday 21 September as well as from 11am to 5pm the following day.