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De Lijn aims to introduce self-driving buses by 2026
Flemish public transport company De Lijn is again looking to take its passengers on autonomous buses in cities.
De Lijn has launched a call for applications to carry out a pilot project in Leuven, with the aim of transporting passengers in such vehicles by 2026.
The route of these buses has not been defined, but will be “on public roads in complex traffic environments in full interaction with other road users”, de Lijn said. The initial project could involve 15 to 20 vehicles, with a possible expansion to 80.
Selected candidates will be able to submit their offers in the coming months. According to the provisional schedule set by De Lijn, the contract will be awarded to a manufacturer during the second half of 2024.
Tests will be carried out in 2025 and the new passenger transport service should be implemented in the second quarter of 2026.
De Lijn has already carried out pilot projects in cities including Genk, Antwerp and Mechelen, but these schemes were discontinued in 2020 as the technology was not advanced enough.
A project for a self-driving bus at Brussels Airport, with a prototype proposed in 2019, was also shelved.
A De Lijn spokesperson said: “We’re seeing an acceleration in the development and implementation of this technology worldwide.”
The operator expects that, in the longer term, autonomous transport will make it possible to offer “efficient and attractive public transport” for many more people.
Indeed, there is growing momentum for this type of travel. In November 2023, an automated self-driving bus was tested in Milton Keynes, UK, as part of a Europe-wide research project.
Brussels public transport operator Stib operated a self-driving mini-bus in Woluwe Park in summer 2019.
Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga