The buses go no faster than 20 kph (12 1/2 mph), but the trials in Trikala (pronounced TREE-kah-lah) potentially represent a major advance for automated transport.
Trikala already has already tested EU-funded pilot medical programs, including schemes to relay heart test data from home to the doctor’s office and use tracker devices for Alzheimer patients. In the center of the city, a “digital tree” with solar panels allows benches to carry phone-charging outlets.
The 28-nation European Union is targeting gasoline use for city transport as one area where it wants to reduce carbon emissions. With oil prices and city populations expected to rise in the coming decades, a major shift to battery power and more shared transport could blur the line between private and public vehicles.
Senior transport analyst Philippe Crist at the International Transport Forum, an OECD think-tank based in Paris, says transport trends are hard to predict as the world moves more toward automation.
Crist said researchers looked at “shared and route-optimized on-call taxi-like services replacing all car and bus trips in a mid-sized European city. We found that these systems could deliver almost the same mobility as today but with 95 percent fewer vehicles.”
So far, the CityMobile2 has had mixed reviews on the streets of Trikala. Not everyone is happy to lose parking spots or replace human jobs with machines. Still, retiree Michalis Pantelis said he was proud that his city was selected for the testing.