In 2003, an experimental 24-metre-long bus with independent control and drive to all its axles will be introduced in the Dutch city of Eindhoven.
The new extra-long bus, which is known as Phileas and can carry more than 200 passengers, is said to combine the advantages of a city bus and a tram.
NWO’s Technology Foundation STW is financing research at Eindhoven University of Technology into an electronic guidance system, which will ensure that the new vehicle runs like a tram.
The plan is for the guidance system to regulate the speed when the bus is close to stops.
The design for the new electronic guidance system, which makes the self-steering bus possible, is the brainchild of the Eindhoven STW researcher Dik de Bruin.
The bus is guided by a magnetic reference system in the road surface. Every four metres, at specific locations, a permanent magnet is installed in the asphalt.
A sensor on board the bus registers the magnetic field, determining the distance between the magnet and the sensor with an accuracy of two centimetres.
The vehicle has a number of sensors in various places, meaning that the measurements overlap. This means that safety is not impaired even if one of the sensors is faulty.
The bus has been designed to follow a narrow track over a pre-programmed route, steering itself around bends and automatically stopping at bus stops.
It is precisely positioned close to a raised platform at each stop, which leads to a reduction in the time needed for passengers to get on and off.
According to the NWO this will lead to an increase in the average speed of the vehicle over the whole route.
The new vehicle, which will run on LPG and be driven by an electric motor, will not need to be connected to an electrical power supply, nor will it require an expensive system of rails, meaning that the necessary construction costs are low.