BY: ROB HOFFMAN
The Netherlands just introduced the first publicly accessible driverless shuttles to hit the open roads this November.
Holding up to six passengers per trip, the WEpod follows in the footsteps of Citymobil2, the Finnish cousin of the WEpod that has already transported more than 19,000 passengers. The WEpod is set to start out slow and steady. Harsh rain, snow, or busy traffic are still no-no’s for the autonomous vehicle until it is thoroughly tested and secure. There will also be a number of people overseeing the vehicle from afar over monitors with the help of radar, cameras and GPS. The WEpod will also travel at a sluggish maximum of 25 kilometres per hour.
The WEpod’s first public appearance will pilot in November in the Netherlands between the towns of Wageningen and Ede, according to the Telegraph. Though self-driving transportation does currently exists in places like Rotterdam and London, they operate more like a train than a bus. In contrast, if you live in the Netherlands, you may end up passing the WEpod on the highway during morning commutes.
Passengers can arrange rides and reserve seats on the WEpod with an application, which will also give the WEpod the freedom to independently arrange itineraries, according to the Telegraph. However, the WEpod’s route will be largely restricted until May 2016. By spring next year, however, the number of routes will expand.
Implementing a driverless shuttle also opens the door to some serious potential tomfoolery. What if someone reserves a seat, then sneaks a few friends along for the ride? What if hooligans decide to turn the WEpod into a mobile hot-box? Aside from being completely awesome, this kind of horseplay could pose a major threat to the autonomous vehicle.
Following the success of Citymobil2, the EU doesn’t seem too concerned. In fact, similar initiatives have already been launched in Switzerland and Greece.