Germany Introduces Self-Driving Buses


Deutsche Bahn headquarters in Berlin (by Janine Pohl via Wikimedia Commons) 

On Wednesday (October 25) Germany’s state-owned railway company (Deutsche Bahn, DB) launched the country’s first self-driving bus service. The new route will connect the railway station of Bad Birnbach, a town in southern Bavaria, with the nearby spa resort.

The electric bus, developed by a French company, has a speed of 20 km/h and can accommodate up to twelve passengers.

This morning DB’s chief executive Richard Lutz and district councillor Michael Fahmüller of the Christian Social Union (CSU) inaugurated the new route, which DB described in a press release as a “vision for the future of public transport.”

Viktor Gröll, the director of Bad Birnbach’s spa resort, said that the new self-driving bus route is more than a tourist attraction. It is part of a strategy aimed at making travel by train more attractive by offering a service that connects the spa and the railway station, and it gives the public an alternative to cars in the area. The electric bus also highlights one of the spa resort’s main themes, ecological sustainability.

The self-driving bus is entirely powered by electricity and is equipped with laser sensors that immediately stop the vehicle if it encounters obstacles on the way.

DB is not the only company that is experimenting with self-driving buses. R+V Insurances and airport operator Fraport have launched a self-driving shuttle bus that is currently only used by Fraport’s employees at Frankfurt Airport but could soon become available to the public.


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