First, they gave us cuckoo clocks. Then watches. And chocolate molded after their legendary “Toblerone line” defense system of walls. We’re talking of course about Switzerland, the impossibly idyllic land on which god himself modeled Paradise, where crosswalks are bejeweled with Swarovsky crystals, being seen working on Sundays is not permitted, and, at the push of a button, all bridges and roads into the country can be obliterated. Talk about wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Now, however, the country of fondue, Evian, and impossibly punctual trains is bringing us something new: autonomous, self-driving buses. And not just regular self-driving buses mind you, but actual, bonafide driverless self-driving buses.
And what better place to kick off the foray into autonomous public transportation than the spectacular village of Sion: with numerous twisty bits of asphalt and countless tourists hoping for an efficient journey around town without the gridlocked traffic of Geneva or Zürich, it offers a great example to hone the buses’ ability to cope with the everyday grind they will soon experience all over the country.
Set to launch in the spring of 2016, Switzerland’s driverless bus pilot program will be one of the world’s first such trials.
Although the buses themselves will be legitimately driverless — i.e., no way for a human to control the vehicles — they will nevertheless be rigorously monitored from afar by humans in a remote control center. No word yet on whether the remote operators will be able to directly control the vehicles, but we’ve reached out and will update this story as soon as we have more information.