Mercedes-Benz Future Bus With CityPilot: Ingenious Self-Driving City Bus
Time and again, we realise that our city bus networks are muddled with multiple challenges like traffic gridlocks, sluggish flow, inefficient, and poor safety, especially for other road users. But certain technologies are round the corner to make our urban buses more reliable and safer, like the one that Daimler has demonstrated recently with its “CityPilot” technology in a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) oriented public-transit bus. In a first of its kind, the company has put a city bus into self-driving mode in a real-life traffic situation at the longest BRT line in Europe. Equipped with a dozen cameras, long and short-range radar systems, and a satellite-guided GPS, the CityPilot system works with data fusion to operate safely, efficiently and predictably than conventional buses.
The CityPilot technology platform is based on the “Highway Pilot” system that Daimler successfully demonstrated in a Mercedes Actros production truck last year. Substantial developments with additional features have been incorporated so as to crack the complex scenario of urban lanes. A 12-metre long solo bus developed from the bestseller Citaro platform has been used for the autonomous prototype. The autonomous concept is ideally suitable for BRT systems, pointing to the fact that simultaneous improvement in the road infrastructures are prerequisite for safer and sustainable urban mobility.
In simple terms, the Future Bus works this way. In a BRT setup with separate bus lanes, the CityPilot system assesses the road scenario and informs the driver on its suitability for automated driving. The driver can then activate the CityPilot feature with the press of a button. He/ she doesn’t have to press the accelerator or brake pedal, nor steer the bus, as any driver activity overrides CityPilot, making him/her charge of driving and can take over at any time. The system can recognise traffic lights, communicate with them using WiFi and safely negotiates with other road infrastructure. It can also recognise obstacles, especially pedestrians, and brake on its own whenever the situation commands. It approaches bus stops with precision, where it opens and closes its doors, and drives away again passing through bridges and tunnels with utmost safety. The bus can reach a top speed of 70 kmph.
Apart from road safety, the Future Bus also wins over efficiency by putting less stress on the engine and brakes, thereby reducing fuel consumption, emissions, and wear and tear, by way of smooth, fluent, and predictable driving operations. Commuters will also experience comfy rides and can save travel time. Operators can save money persistence maintenance costs as well.
Apart from the CityPilot feature, the Future Bus exhibits innovative design and styling, both inside and out. As the name suggests, the designers at the Mercedes have tried to think beyond the conventions in every aspects of design, may it be its harmonious lines and asymmetrical contours on body panels, lighting, door layout or information systems. Other fancy goodies such as redesigned cockpit, wireless smartphone charging, electronic ticket dispensation system, etc. are also present.
In a way, the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus reiterates the fact that the BRT system is the most practical concept to resolve worldwide traffic problems in urban areas, which is also more democratic in terms of road usage and spatial rights on city roads. Combined with technologies on both the static physical infrastructure and on buses, the BRT network is capable of delivering an efficient, safer, and more reliable public transport system.