Two autonomous shuttle buses began carrying passengers in the district of Sion last week, as part of a two-year research project to test and improve traffic and fleet-management algorithms.

The smart vehicles, run by Swiss public bus operator PostBus, will carry up to 11 passengers at a time, at a maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour.

The vehicles will make their way along the edge of town and through a pedestrian area.

A remote operator using a software program will monitor and control the buses. For safety and security, an attendant will also be onboard.

The challenge for the researchers is to develop a fleet-management system able to handle the many situations that autonomous vehicles could encounter.

The vehicles must also be able to communicate with each other and with others on the road so that they can adjust their speed as necessary and respect the right-of-way.

Switzerland’s Commission for Technology and Innovation is supporting the two-year project.

It will include a reliable system for managing the specific needs of passengers, such as on-demand service, booking a ride in advance and offering flexible routes.

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