Two small, French-made EasyMile EZ10 buses are now driving themselves in real vehicular traffic in Helsinki. A human being is around, just in case.
The month long trial, in the south of the city, follows an earlier experiment in a neighboring municipality on streets limited to pedestrian traffic, reports YLE, a local news service. Other places have tried this hothouse-flower experiment, notably in the Netherlands, Switzerland, China, and Britain. Next month the service will move to a municipality immediately east of Helsinki, and then on to Tempere, which is 160 kilometers (99 miles) to the north.
An EZ10 is no Google Car writ large: In its current stage, at least, it goes only 11 kilometers per hour (7 mph), and the point is to exploit only relatively easy routes.
"Their purpose is to supplement but not to replace” human drivers, says project leader Harri Santamala of the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. “For example the goal could be to use them as a feeder service for high-volume bus or metro traffic…. In other words the mini-bus would know when the connecting service is coming and it would get you there on time.”