Visitors to Montreal's Olympic Park could, in the near future, be shuttled around its attractions in a driverless, electric bus.
Two French companies, Transdev and Keolis Canada, have been testing driverless buses around the Olympic Stadium ahead of the World Summit on Public Transit taking place at the Palais des congrès starting Monday.
CBC's French-language service, Radio-Canada, gained early access to the new minibuses this week.
Keolis' Navya transports passengers on closed-circuit routes, especially at airports. Transdev's Easymile does the same in several cities, including in Paris, where its minibuses have been circulating since January 2017 on a reserved lane.
The buses are able to carry around 10 passengers, and are guided by sensors and GPS.
"It's the computer that does the work," Michel Labrecque, president of the Olympic Park, told Radio-Canada as he rode about in the Easymile.
Labrecque said it was this kind of driverless vehicle that could be a good fit for the park and its visitors.
"We said to ourselves, we need to look at this closely, because it would make it possible to connect the Botanical Gardens, the Insectarium, the Biodôme, the Velodrome and the Planetarium and the two metro stations," he added.
The buses are also complete with an emergency brake in case of malfunction or an obstacle on the route.
The transit of the future?
Dominique Lemay, head of Transdev Canada, expects that these kinds of driverless, electric vehicles are only going to become more common on the roads.
"The technology is at the point ... where it's starting to appear all over the world," said Lemay.
Meanwhile, Keolis Canada has its sights set on Montreal and its public transit users. Marie-Hélène Cloutier, vice-president at Keolis Canada, is hoping to market its Navya product as an option for Montrealers in the not-so-distant future.
"Eventually it could be these shuttle buses that take people to the points where they can pick up mass public transit," said Cloutier.
STM will wait and see
But Philippe Schnobb, head of the Société de transport de Montréal, says that for the time being there are no plans to switch the city's bus network over to driverless vehicles.
"We're going to continue to hire drivers. We're going to keep watching the technological developments. We'll think about it," said Schnobb.
Keolis Canada's Navya driverless bus will be giving rides to the public in a closed circuit around the Palais des congrès starting Monday.