Norway's very first self-driving bus, not unlike the one pictured above that was testing publicly in California not long ago, is almost ready to hit the streets and has had its route approved by the country's transport ministry. The autonomous bus will carry passengers from Stavanger to the Forus office complex in Sadnes, a relatively brief ride that normally takes a human-driven bus about 15 minutes. The short route does take the bus on populated public roads, meaning that it will have to navigate alongside human drivers and handle many of the same obstacles, such as pedestrians, animals and other rogue elements on the road. Presumably, the bus will also make stops along the way.
The Norwegian law still requires a human safety driver on board, however, and that role will be filled by employees from nearby transit firm Kolumbus. The Kolumbus employee will not actively engage in driving the bus, but will be watching for hazards and applying the brakes as they deem necessary. The bus will begin making its rounds in June and will run indefinitely since this is not a test but a full-fledged commercial launch of the country's first autonomous bus route. There is no word yet on when or if more routes will be announced, since that likely hinges on how well this one goes.
This is not the world's first self-driving bus by any means, but it is the first step toward self-driving technology being widely adopted in Norway. Should this indefinite experiment go well, it could mean that the country will be on a path toward allowing fully autonomous driving without a safety driver, as well as self-driving vehicles becoming a more common sight. Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen even went as far as to tell local news outlet Dagsavisen RA that he thinks the use of self-driving vehicles will become "natural" in the near future. Solvik-Olsen's statement echoes the sentiment that kicked off the self-driving trend, namely that easy and cheap transportation to anywhere should be available to everyone, and fully autonomous cars will likely make for safer, more easily navigable roadways than human drivers have ever been able to manage.