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Helsinki set to introduce driverless bus service following successful trial period

Finland is set to introduce a scheduled driverless bus service to its capital city Helsinki following the conclusion of a series of trials which were conducted by local transportation authorities. A statement released by city transportation officials confirmed that autonomous transit will begin operations in autumn.

Helsinki started testing on the driverless bus service last summer by initially deploying a pair of electrically powered Easy-Mile (EZ-10) vehicles which carried a dozen passengers at a time along a pre-determined fixed route. There was an operator on-board in case of any emergencies, and the vehicle's maximum speed was 7MPH.

However, following consultations between transportation officials and representatives from the local government authority it has been determined that there is now enough confidence in the program to move it from an experimental project to a fully scheduled regular service.

The buses had been previously tested on closed roads in Holland, and in a rural Finnish town just north of the capital city. Finland's successful urban trial, which is one of the first in the entire world, has now paved the way for a regular autonomous transportation service in Helsinki, and one which is set to be replicated in other cities all across Europe and North America.

The new service will be entitled the 'RoboBusLine' and while it will launch sometime in autumn, the exact launch date and schedule of the service has not yet been disclosed. City officials have expressed their belief that this innovative and transformative technology can help solve the last-mile issue and deliver transit riders right to their homes. The government's primary objective is to increase public transit usage in its effort to construct a mobility-on-demand service.

The trials were conducted by Sohjoa, which is an EU-financed project that had input from six of Finland's biggest cities, universities and transport authorities. They also conducted tests in the minibus in other cities such as Espoo and Tampere. Finland has become a global player in self-driving technology, and that's largely down to a fairly 'loose law' which basically doesn't technically require a driver for every vehicle.

All these autonomous experiments are part of a large European Union initiative entitled the mySMARTlife program which ultimately aims to reduce energy consumption and develop urban solutions to mitigate climate change.