According to the Finnish public broadcasting company Yle the minibuses will operate initially under the supervision of an onboard controller, serving a roughly kilometre-long route in the Hervanta neighbourhood. The route connects the south-eastern terminus of the city’s tram trunk line with the residential area of Lintuhytti.
The city will launch a six-month training programme for aspiring controllers with the company behind the autonomous bus service, Roboride, and Tampere Adult Education Centre (TAKK). The participants will be taught not only critical safety skills, but also how to operate a traditional minibus in order to ensure uninterrupted service in the event of issues with autonomous operation.
The programme is provided in partnership with the local TE Office and the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre).
The successful participants will be employed by Roboride. While they will initially see to the safety of operation onboard the buses, the plan is to later have them monitor the operations from a remote control centre.
Tampere has grown into somewhat of a trailblazer in autonomous transport. The Finnish company Sensible 4 in May reported that it successfully piloted self-driving vans in feeding passengers for the tram line amid the most challenging winter conditions the city has endured in years.
“The self-driving vehicles ran smoothly and felt safe,” said Mika Kulmala, project manager at the City of Tampere. “In the future, I see these kinds of vehicles complementing the public transport system for certain routes and amounts of passengers.”
The pilot supported the city’s strategic goal of becoming a pioneer in smart city development. Tampere was earlier this year recognised as such also for its effort to achieve climate neutrality by the European Commission.