Self-driving bus technology is about to move a notch higher in the United States of America. California would soon become one of the states in America to have tested self-driving buses without having a backup driver on board. This testing is oriented towards California's attempt of becoming the hub for testing such technologies in near future.
A pilot bus project is taking place at the Bishop Ranch office park complex located in San Ramon, California. It involves two 12-passenger shuttle buses sourced from EasyMile, a French private company. These buses were spotted driving in an empty parking lot located in San Francisco Bay Area. The project is backed by air quality authorities, a combination of private organizations and public transit authorities.
The absence of a backup driver and steering wheel is what makes the project unique for the State of California. During various tests, one of the buses moved through a block long circuit so swiftly that the constant movement left the tarmac marked with a dirt track.
It was only last year that legislators in California had legalized slow speed-testing of fully autonomous vehicles on public roads. The legislators had taken the decision keeping Bishop Ranch test in consideration.
These shuttle buses, before hitting the streets, will be tested in various parking lots for a few months. Their operators will require approvals from Department of Motor Vehicles before deploying them on local streets of California.
Testing such self-driving technology in big vehicles such as buses and trucks is full of risks as there is no backup driver available to take control in situations arising out of emergencies. Though, it might be possible to stop or control such vehicles with help of remote enabled switches, the agencies responsible must still ensure highest level of precautions. Alphabet Inc's Waymo, in 2015, had tested a car with no steering wheel or pedals in Austin, Texas.