From self-driving subway cars to self-driving buses

The subway


It is a fact. Today, more and more cities are switching from the traditional subway driven by a human pilot for autonomous systems. The capitals of Europe, Asia, America are progressively deploying the self-driving system. On the long run, this will allow a 24/7 transportation of people around the city. In some cases, the 24/7 systems are already in service.


The self-driving subway has minimum requirements:

  • Clear separation between platform and subway (platform doors), like the ones for the elevators.
  • Precise stop mechanism, in order to match the train doors with the platform doors
  • Headway distance locator, preventing frontal collision with other trains

The list is much longer, but for the casual passenger, these are the most obvious parts of an automatic subway.

The bus

Image result for self driving bus

There is a long shot going from subway to buses, but the same principles apply, with some supplementary rules:

  • precise guidance system. The subway has the rails, but the bus does not. The road vehicle must rely on optical and GPS positioning. Other systems may be used, like magnetic track buried under the lane surface.
  • dedicated lane. While the self driving cars are the hottest topic in automobile industry, it is better to make small steps instead of huge leaps.
  • surround detect system able to identify obstacles like cars and people. This prevents accidents.
  • cross roads signaling systems. Having a designated  priority above the other vehicles allows the self-driving bus to  handle better road / square crossing.
  • communication system integrated with police, ambulance and fire truck vehicles.  Coordination is at the heart of the system.
  • remote driving from the transportation company headquarters. In case of incidents, a human driver must be able to take over the automatic driving system.
  • safety mechanisms preventing any abnormal behavior.

There is more to be said about the automated bus, but this is the minimum that would allow experimental self-driving bus lines. As we can see, the bus requires more safety enforcement than the subway, as it shares the road with other vehicles.



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