This is the future of public transport

Len Brown can stick his trains, he can also stick his buses. This is the public transport of the future.

Robot taxis.

Raul Rojas, a professor of artificial intelligence at the Free University of Berlin who leads their autonomous car project, has a more ambitious vision.

He predicts that the public transport of the future will be fleets of robot taxis, cheaper and safer than the human kind, and capable of operating for 24 hours a day without fatigue.   

In a few years’ time, Professor Rojas suggests, people will use their mobile phones to summon a robot taxi, dropping it off at their destination ready for the next passenger.

There are still technical barriers to the mass production of automated cars. The key problem is vision. The laser scanners used by the Free University’s car cannot pass through a solid barrier, so a pedestrian stepping out from between two parked buses would be invisible until the last moment.

An automated car “does not just need to watch out for other cars,” Professor Herrtwch says. “It needs to check for pedestrians and cyclists, for lanes, stopping lines, traffic signs, and traffic lights. It needs to understand that a lane ends in a few hundred metres or that there is a stalled vehicle on the highway ahead of it.”

This technology does not just need to be reliable, but affordable within the budget constraints of a typical mass production vehicle.



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  • Donovan Jackson

    The unions will be thrilled.

  • Col

    Well you wouldn’t get overcharged!!
    “And if someone steps out between to cars you see them at the last moment that’s normal”?

    • Roger

      Or raped or buggered.

  • peterwn

    No driver wanting to have a chat about politics etc.

  • Phil

    I can’t believe modern trains still require a driver onboard. They should be first to go.

  • Roger

    This is here now – Google has retrofitted this technology to existing cars and achieved a huge mileage already on San Fran streets without crashes – see here – …..has equipped a test fleet of at least ten vehicles, consisting of six Toyota Prius, an Audi TT, and three Lexus RX450h,[10] each accompanied in the driver’s seat by one of a dozen drivers with unblemished driving records and in the passenger seat by one of Google’s engineers. The car has traversed San Francisco’s Lombard Street, famed for its steep hairpin turns and through city traffic. The vehicles have driven over the Golden Gate Bridge and on the Pacific Coast Highway, and have circled Lake Tahoe.

    This sort of technology coupled with a simple request and delivery system will be the death knell of new rail/tram commuter projects anywhere. No need for parking buildings (and the waste of capital as the car sits idle for 8 hours) and the car goes to its next call – all optimised. Because it will be inherently safe as there is no irrational driver these could transit in convoys on the motorway (like trains) at 110 kph which will increase the effective capacity of the motorway many fold…..

  • Steve (North Shore)

    Robot Taxis – bring it on!
    Got to be better than North Shore Taxis, who finaly arrive two hours late when the booking had been made 12 hours earlier.
    The Jetstar of Taxis

  • Mr_V4

    10 years time … the FBI has a backdoor to your Google self-driving
    car. Locks all the doors and drives you to the police station.
    – ‏@stevejburge