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Driverless bus 'Olli' undergoes testing in Berlin

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Driverless bus 'Olli' undergoes testing in Berlin
Olli on a test trip in Schöneberg. Photo: DPA
08:30 CET+01:00
The Deutsche Bahn are sponsoring a project to build driverless busses, which developers claim will change the face of public transport in Berlin.

A prototype bus, nicknamed Olli and built by the US firm Local Motors, is currently undergoing testing in the Schöneberg district of Berlin, with plans in place to build 50 models in 2017.

The miniature bus offers space for 12 passengers and drives at speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour.

When Olli eventually hits the streets, passengers will be able to call him via an app and will then be able to chat with him about the weather, good cafes in the area, or the best public transport connections, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported on Wednesday.

“In five years, hundreds of autonomous vehicles will be travelling the streets of Berlin waiting to be called into service,” Damien Declercq, executive vice president of Local Motors, told the SZ.

During the testing phase, the vehicle is learning to identify hazards in the street, such as pedestrians and cyclists, as well as learning street markings and routes.

While this type of technology may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, driverless cars are already a fact of life in Germany and other countries.

In September a Tesla electric car crashed into a tourist bus on a motorway in northern Germany, after the driver - who was the only one slightly injured - claimed he had activated the autopilot system.

In Washington DC meanwhile, self-driving busses already operate on streets in one suburb.

But it seems that it is unlikely that the bus will have such a smooth transition from test track to street in Germany.

German law states that an automobile must have a human at the wheel at all times who can take control of the vehicle in case of an emergency.

A spokesperson for the Berlin Senate, meanwhile, told the SZ that self-driving busses could “cause shock among other drivers, leading to fatal accidents.”

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