Pilot project for driverless buses awaiting European funding to begin

Last Updated on Wednesday, 8 June, 2022 at 8:18 pm by Andre Camilleri

A pilot project which will see a set of electric, self-driving buses take to Malta’s roads is awaiting funding from the European Union before beginning, Transport Minister Aaron Farrugia told Parliament some days ago.

Farrugia was answering a Parliamentary Question from PN MP Rebekah Cilia which sought an update about the autonomous buses project, which was announced by the Transport Ministry in May 2021 and whether funding for the project had been acquired.

In his answer, the Minister said that the project had been submitted for consideration as part of a consortium of projects for European Union funding.

“Once the funding is confirmed, then the project can start,” Farrugia said.

“These funds will be spent on the actual implementation, on the drawing up of the proper legislation, and on research,” he added.

A scoping exercise which was part of the drawing up of the project has been completed, with the next step now being studies and the actual implementation of the project. 

The scope of this research, Farrugia said, is to better understand how to address Malta’s road infrastructure in order to prepare for the introduction of new technologies such as this.

The project was launched as a collaborative effort between Transport Malta, the University of Malta, and Malta Public Transport in May 2021.

In involved the use of driverless buses on what will initially be four test routes.  These routes are between the University of Malta and Mater Dei Hospital, a circular trip of Valletta, the Ta’ Qali family park, and a final route between Smart City in Xghajra and Esplora in Kalkara.

The vehicles use onboard sensors in order to detect the environment around them, with the information then feeding through the device’s in-built artificial intelligence to control it.

Some 300 of these vehicles are in operation globally, with Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States of America among the countries to have already started trialling the technology for public transport.

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