Israel has launched a two-year pilot program in which four companies will operate self-driving public buses in a bid to ease road congestion, the country's Innovation Authority said.
The authority, along with the Transportation Ministry and Ayalon Highways, chose four groups - including Egged, Israel's largest bus operator - that will start running independent autonomous buses on public roads.
“We chose the four most promising proposals and are pleased to be among the first in the world to bring autonomous vehicle technology and public transport together,” Ran Shadmi, director of the National Public Transport Authority, said.
“There is still a long way to go, but we have no doubt that this initiative has the potential to improve the service and the passenger experience on public transport and to improve safety levels.”
The state is providing half of an investment of 61 million shekels ($17 million) for the pilot that will be done in two stages with the goal of examining the viability of integrating autonomous vehicles into Israel's public transport system.
In phase one, companies will carry out pilots on self-driving buses in a closed area and in operational areas, with the aim of proving technological, regulatory, safety and business feasibility. In the second stage, they will operate an autonomous bus lines on public roads, at a range that will increase throughout the two-year pilot period.
The four groups participating include companies from Israel, the United States, France, Turkey and Norway.