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Self-Steering Buses In Cambridge

Self-steering buses will be tested soon in Cambridge, England. The new system will allow thousands of miles of new bus lanes to be installed on roads that are too narrow for ordinary buses.

The new buses will use a camera mounted at the top of the windscreen to follow lines painted on the road; in tests, the bus does not deviate more than a few millimeters from its course. This allows bus lanee 5ft narrower than those used by driver-steered buses. Cyclists and pedestrians in city centres will be able pass close to the self-steering bus without fearing that the driver will suddenly veer off course.

The bus will also guide itself to within 4cm of the curb at bus stops, allowing level boarding for disabled passengers and people with wheelchairs. The camera can look 100 yards ahead, recognising the parallel lines of dashes and sending a signal to a box on the steering mechanism. The steering wheel vibrates as soon as the system detects the lines, informing the driver that it is safe to remove his hands.

Science fiction fans will recall the self-steering Camden speedster from Robert Heinlein's 1941 novel Methuselah's Children:

he car waited for a break in the traffic, then dived into the high-speed stream and hurried north. Mary settled back for a nap.
(Read more about Robert Heinlein's Camden speedster)

Update 07-Oct-2017: Check out the automatobus from Isaac Asimov's 1953 short story Sally. End update.

Update 11-Nov-2023: As far as I know, the first science fiction writers to describe this idea, which they called an autobus were Stanley G. and Helen Weinbaum in the short story Tidal Moon:

THE autobus turned silently down the wide street of Hydropole. Robot-guided, insulated from noise and cold, it was certainly preferable to traveling by hipp.
(Read more about autobus)

End update.

These buses are already in limited use Rouen in France and Bologna in Italy. The drivers will continue to be used, owing to the inability of the buses to follow lines when covered by snow. Drivers will then steer by hand.

Read more here; from WMMNA

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/3/2006)

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Related News Stories - (" Transportation ")

San Francisco Autobus
'THE autobus turned silently down the wide street...' - Stanley G. and Helen Weinbaum, 1938.

Volvo's Autonomous Truck
'They were automatic trucks such as are used for making deliveries...' - Miles J. Breuer, 1932.

Eviation Alice Electric Plane First Flight
'A white electric plane approached at great speed...' - Charles Cloukey, 1930.

Robotaxi By Cruise Premieres in Austin, Texas
'... he settled back in a robotaxi and the brilliant lights of the streets flashed past.' - Joe Gibson, 1953.

 

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