According to Autopia, UC Berkley geeks have tested a successful way to circumvent the reckless bus driver with a penchant for vehicular manslaughter [or perhaps that’s just New Jersey’s own that’s coloring our perspective slightly] with a magnetized, self-steering bus. Developed by the California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways, the self-steering bus isn’t completely automated as it relies on human braking and acceleration. It is self-piloting, however, and using magnetic strips embedded in the street, the automated bus flawlessly navigated a one-mile stretch of road and successfully parked itself within one centimeter of the curb during tests.
Magnetic guidance technology is what allows the bus to behave like a light rail transit vehicle, with magnetic markers placed in the street every 4 feet. Sensors mounted on the bus identify and track the markers, while the alternating polarity of the magnets allows an on-board computer to determine the buses precise latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. The technology isn’t exactly new, but fuel, time, and money concerns are bringing it into the spotlight. Similar technology that would provide a buss rapid transit system to the bay area could wind up costing as much as $283 million, but simply outfitting the current fleet with a magnetic guidance system would only cost $5 million. Heralded as a major movement for improving traffic congestion and commuting conditions in general, the president of the Bay Area transit board of directors said, “The system has the potential to make bus rapid transit routes…as efficient as light rail lines, which in turn will make buses more efficient in getting people out of their cars.”