Bahrain could soon join the global drive towards autonomous public transport vehicles under a municipal proposal.
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His suggestion has been forwarded to Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed for consideration.
“There’s a great opportunity to move fast with the concept of self-driving buses. We could carry out tests at Bahrain University, Bahrain Polytechnic and the Bahrain Training Institute,” said Mr Al Kooheji.
“The intent is to introduce cost-saving innovations and become world leaders in this new market, as we are doing with the use of robotic technology in the health sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It could also open up new job opportunities. Two driverless shuttles, nicknamed Olli and EZ10, are currently undergoing trials on the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) campus in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
The aim has been to build on regular commuter services for students and staff members but any larger scale implementation has had to be put on the backburner due to the outbreak of Covid-19.
Olli and EZ10 use camera and censor technology to sense and feel their surroundings. The first self-driving bus service is the result of a collaboration project between KAUST, digital vehicle manufacturer LM (Local Motors) Industries, driverless technologies firm EasyMile and the Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO).
“This new technology should pave the way for the future, not just in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, but also here in Bahrain,” added Mr Al Kooheji.
“The buses in Saudi Arabia are electric, autonomous, self-driving machines, connected to the Internet and communicate with a central command centre.”
Mr Al Kooheji said the opportunities and benefits of utilising this type of technology for public transportation were immense.
“The elderly would just hop into the vehicle on a seat already adjusted under their names, for example,” he said.
“The ministry could also start using this technology as a precursor of railway services it intends to offer in the future.
“Saudi Arabia has been supportive and through our contacts we could perhaps test in parallel with them here in Bahrain.”
Southern Municipal Council chairman Bader Al Tamimi, whose governorate covers the kingdom’s three main educational establishments, said arrangements for testing could be negotiated with officials.
“The three educational establishments already face difficulties with on-campus parking. There is often traffic congestion with students delayed getting to classes, so testing this technology here would be ideal,” he said.
“The public transportation company, also headquartered in our governorate, would need to be involved as they could test the technology in all its phases.
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