Berlin's first driverless bus hits the street

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The BVG's self-driving bus is taking to the streets of Berlin. Credit: Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe

Berlin is already teeming with last-mile mobility options like shared bikes and e-scooters.

Now the city’s public transport company Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) is set to add driverless buses to the mix, testing its first autonomous shuttles on a public road this month.

The BVG has been testing the self-driving bus, developed by French company EasyMile, in the confines of a campus for the past year. This month it will face real-world traffic conditions on a 600 metre stretch from an underground station in the north-western part of the capital.

The little electric bus, which can carry up to six people, will not take passengers until later this summer. It will first learn the route and how to react to road situations by driving. “When we tested it for the first time, it stopped because of a ray of sunshine, which [it] thought was an oncoming headlight." BVG spokeswoman Petra Nelken told public broadcaster RBB.

There will be a human on board the bus, she said, but only to stop it in case of emergency, the technician can’t steer it or control the speed — it has a sedate top speed of 15kph (9mph).

READ MORE: Berlin becomes latest European city to launch electric scooters

A number of other European cities, including Hamburg and Oslo, are testing driverless buses. Britain’s Stagecoach began trials on a full-sized autonomous bus have in Manchester in March this year.

In Austria, authorities in Vienna suspended an autonomous bus trial after the vehicle hit and lightly injured a pedestrian.