“This is an historic decision which promotes the development of new, innovative technologies which are important for the development of society. Extensive research and trials are necessary to develop automated road traffic in a sustainable and safe way,” Jonas Bjelfvenstam, the Transport Agency’s director-general, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Bus company Nobina is behind the venture, in cooperation with tech experts at Ericsson, SJ, KTH, Klövern, Urban ICT Arena and Stockholm City, funded by among others Vinnova via Drive Sweden.
The buses are set to run between Kista mall and Victoria Tower in northern Stockholm along a 1.5 kilometre pre-recorded path at a speed of 20 kilometres an hour, using GPS and sensors to ensure they do not divert from the path.
They have no steering wheel as such but can be operated manually. A driver will be on board to take control of the bus in case of emergency, as is required under current legislation in Sweden.
“The applicant has to show that the vehicle can be driven without impacting traffic safety. Our role is to ensure that that is the case,” said Bjelfvenstam.
The buses in Kista will be free to use and both have space for 12 passengers at a time. They are expected to start running in mid-January next year, Nobina told The Local on Wednesday.
The Transport Agency is currently processing another seven applications for self-driving trials, and more applications are expected in 2018.