Dutch test first self-drive minibuses

January 28, 2016
A picture taken in Wageningen, on January 28, 2016 shows the WEpod shuttle, designed to carry six people without a driver, runni
A picture taken in Wageningen, on January 28, 2016 shows the WEpod shuttle, designed to carry six people without a driver, running during its first test drive

The Netherlands started test-driving its first driverless minibuses on Thursday hoping to introduce a full-time autonomous passenger service in a central Dutch province by summer.

Dutch Infrastructure Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen took the first ride in a so-called "WEpod" shuttle, designed to carry six people without a driver between the towns of Wageningen and Ede in the Gelderland province.

"Currently two WEPods will drive around the campus" at Wageningen University, where it is being tested, said Jac Niessen, the university's science spokesman.

"At the end of a successful testing phase, the will be expanded off campus," the province said in a press release.

The 12-minute route will take passengers along quiet back roads, but the minibus will have to contend with cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

It will be programmed with a carefully mapped-out route in which all obstacles including trees and streetlights have been documented.

The eventual plan "is to have them drive on a route, within traffic from nearby Ede to Wageningen by the middle of the year," Niessen told AFP.

The minibus will be equipped with cameras, radar and laser sensors with on-board computers relaying information to the brakes and steering.

Its movements will be carefully watched from a central control room and it can be handed over to a controller if difficulties arise.

The French-designed WEPods were delivered to Wageningen in September and research began immediately.

Electric-powered, the minibuses are capable of reaching speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour (25 miles per hour) but will initially travel no faster than 25 km per hour. It has a range of around 100 kilometres (60 miles).

Further research is needed into insurance and liability issues, as well as human behaviour, traffic control and legislation, provincial authorities said.

"This pilot project will help us shape the future" of transport, said Conny Bieze, Gelderland's provincial infrastructure chief.

"This initiative helps to contribute to new forms of public transport," she said.

"People will continue to travel, only the way they do it is going to change."

Explore further: Driverless taxi on Seoul campus offers glimpse of future

Related Stories

Dutch government encourages self-driving car tests

June 16, 2014

The Dutch government says it wants to encourage large-scale tests of self-driving cars in the Netherlands by next year, and supports a plan to allow tests of self-driving trucks by 2019.

Autonomous shuttles in Switzerland

November 4, 2015

For the first time in Switzerland, autonomous shuttles could make the rounds of a city center. Researchers at EPFL, in association with the startup BestMile and the public bus operator PostBus, are working on how to integrate ...

Sweden joins race for self-driving cars

December 2, 2013

A hundred self-driving Volvo cars will roll onto public roads in and around the Swedish city of Gothenburg in 2017, the Chinese-owned car maker said Monday.

First bag of chips from fully automatic chip machine

September 9, 2015

Dutch start-up Caenator, in collaboration with StartLife and Wageningen University & Research Centre, presented a new generation of fully automatic chip vending machines. On 2 September, in the Restaurant of the Future on ...

Recommended for you

Microbes help turn Greek yogurt waste into fuel

December 13, 2017

Consumers across the world enjoy Greek yogurt for its taste, texture, and protein-packed punch. Reaching that perfect formula, however, generates large volumes of food waste in the form of liquid whey. Now researchers in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.