De Lijn explores self-driving buses with call for pilot project in Leuven
Flemish public transport operator De Lijn has launched a call for candidates to develop a pilot project in Leuven that it hopes will lead to the introduction of driverless buses by 2026.
The route of the bus line has not been defined, but the vehicles will be expected to drive “on public roads in complex traffic environments in full interaction with other road users”, De Lijn says. The initial project could involve up to 20 vehicles, with possible expansion to 80.
The contract is due to be awarded in the second half of this year, with tests carried out in 2025 and a passenger service launched in the second quarter of 2026. Any service would depend on further technological developments and costs.
“Currently, we’re seeing an acceleration in the development and implementation of this technology worldwide,” a De Lijn spokesperson said. It expects that in the longer term, autonomous transport will make it possible to offer “efficient and attractive public transport” for many more people.
De Lijn has previously explored the possibilities of self-driving buses. There was a feasibility study with partner cities Genk, Leuven, Antwerp and Mechelen, but this was discontinued at the end of 2020 because the technology was not sufficiently mature. There were also plans for a self-driving bus at Brussels Airport, with a prototype proposed in 2019, but that project was also eventually cancelled.
#FlandersNewsService | Illustration picture taken during the demonstration of a self-driving electric bus at Brussels Airport, May 2019 © BELGA PHOTO JASPER JACOBS