The world’s first driverless bus is here, but it can only travel 200 yards

A long and winding road.
A long and winding road.
Image: WePods/Rogier Leuvenink
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In the future, self-driving cars, trains and buses will carry us all wherever we need to go. And while companies like Alphabet and Ford reach for that distant dream, it seems that French company EasyMile is already there: Reuters reported today, Jan. 28, that EasyMile’s first driverless bus is now shuttling passengers on public roads in the Dutch town of Wageningen.

It’s a great achievement, but it’s worth noting that the bus isn’t exactly hitting the open road: It travels a precise 200-meter (200 yard) route. Also known as the WePod, the bus rolls at only eight kilometers (five miles) per hour, so it’s not even traveling those 200 meters very quickly.

“But an unmanned vehicle has never been used on public roads,” Jan Willem van der Wiel, WePod’s technical director, told Reuters. “This is a milestone.”

This is just the beginning for WePod: If all goes according to plan, the test will be expanded in the next few moths, and eventually the bus will be used as a part of a six-kilometer route in town. As Quartz reported in September, the project is a joint-venture between EasyMile and an EU-funded initiative for autonomous public transport, Citymobil2.

The six-person bus pods are shaped liked ski-lift gondolas on wheels, which were developed for €3 million ($3.3 million) by Delft Technical University.

If you’re so inclined, you can actually watch the WePod make its short journey along the pathway in Wageningen. Be warned: This journey might be a milestone for autonomous vehicles, but it makes for really dull television.