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Bloomington demos driverless buses, could be coming soon

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Bloomington Mayor closed down Kirkwood Ave. Friday to let residents and students try out a driverless bus.

Mayor John Hamilton, D- Bloomington, said he believes this is the first autonomous vehicle to drive on Indiana roadways.

“This is a picture of the future. This is coming. I don’t know if it’s in two years, or six years, but I know there are kids on Bloomington buses today that will be doing this regularly when they are out of high school,” Hamilton said.

The bus is made by a French company called Easy Mile.

The model demoed in Bloomington Friday is designed for 12 passengers and marketed to fit in with existing public transportation helping passengers with the first and last mile of their trips, according to Easy Mile Engineer Christian Elminger.

“So it brings you from a bus station to a neighborhood or it can go around university campuses, big parking lots those kinds of things," he said.

Elminger added the bus has countless sensors and is able to detect objects in the roadways. The company boasts the vehicle has driven 100,000 miles in 18 counties and has not had a single accident.

“(Autonomous vehicles) are better drivers than humans on average,” Hamilton said.

Friday’s demonstration was the launch of Bloomington’s “Fast Forward Bloomington,” initiative. Hamilton said he believes autonomous vehicles will play a big role in the future of public transportation.

“You can image a fleet of these small vehicles circling the campus, going through the campus trying to make it easier to get from point A to point B,” Hamilton said. “And that’s what this is about.”

Hamilton added he’s not planning to buy one of these driverless buses for the city yet, because Indiana law does not currently allow autonomous vehicles on public roadways.