From the autumn of 2018 until the summer of 2023, Brakar tested autonomous buses in Kongsberg and Drammen.
In the autumn of 2018, Brakar became the first in the world to launch a fully integrated autonomous bus into public transportation. This took place in Kongsberg, and in the initial phase, the bus operated a short city centere route from Kongsberg knutepunkt, through Skolegata to Tråkka, and back to Kongsberg knutepunkt (0.9 km).
The bus was assigned its own route number (450) and timetable, and in December 2018, it was extended to operate to Vestsiden. In April 2019, the route was expanded once again, this time to Teknologiparken. The service was coordinated with city bus 407, which stopped servicing the section where route 450 was operating. This marked the first time that autonomous buses replaced diesel buses in regular service. At this point, the route in Kongsberg was the longest and most complex for autonomous buses in the world.
Until December 2021, when the project in Kongsberg was concluded, the bus had traveled a total of 12,175 kilometres.
After achieving several important milestones in Kongsberg, the project was moved to Drammen in August 2021. The autonomous bus was put into operation as route 1, running between Drammen Park and the CC shopping centre. The bus followed a 1.9 km route through the pedestrian street in the city centre, operating from 11 AM to 5 PM on weekdays and from 10 AM to 3 PM on Saturdays. Children and seniors traveled for free, while adult passengers paid regular fare, same as in Kongsberg.
Drammen, as an urban area, provided opportunities to test the interaction of autonomous buses in a more complex traffic environment and to establish a clear focus on future mobility solutions.
During the period when the bus was in operation, it was particularly popular among elderly passengers.
The project in Drammen was concluded in June 2023.
Driving with and without a host
In both Kongsberg and Drammen, the bus was operated with a host on board. The host, who was a bus driver from Vy, had the ability to override the bus if it couldn’t handle a particular situation. The host also assisted passengers.
In Kongsberg, in May/June 2021, we tested driving without a host on board through the pedestrian street. The host followed the bus on foot. An application was also submitted to operate without a host on a section of the route in Drammen, but the application was not approved.
The vehicles used in the projects were produced by the French company EasyMile. The bus had seating for six passengers and was equipped with a wheelchair ramp.
The bus was programmed to follow a specified route and was equipped with a variety of sensors, including both radar and laser technology. The entire area around the bus was continuously scanned. If a pedestrian, cyclist, ball, or another vehicle came too close, the bus would come to a stop.
Sohjoa Last Mile
As part of the EU project, Sohjoa Last Mile, Applied Autonomy, Brakar, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, and Kongsberg municipality also tested autonomous buses without an operator on a closed 1.5 km route within Teknologiparken in Kongsberg. The bus operated on a reservation basis through a mobile app.
The project was initially a research and development project aimed at developing, testing, and piloting an autonomous minibus without an onboard operator on a closed route. The bus began operations in June 2021, and the project concluded in November 2021. The Sohjoa Last Mile project consisted of a total of three pilots, in Kongsberg, Tallinn, and Gdansk.