British Columbia

Vancouver company developing tech for self-driving buses in Europe

Strathcona-based Spare Labs is developing technology to route self-driving, on-demand buses so passengers to hail rides using the internet instead of always keeping to the vehicles’ fixed schedules.

Spare Labs' on-demand technology already in use in Texas and Norway, CEO says

Strathcona-based Spare Labs is developing technology to route self-driving, on-demand buses so passengers to hail rides using the internet instead of always keeping to the vehicles' fixed schedules. (Derek Hooper/CBC News)

The European Union wants to develop self-driving buses and a Vancouver company is part of a competition to make that goal a reality.

Spare Labs is one of five companies taking part in the FABULOS (Future Automated Bus Urban Level Operation Systems) project funded by the EU.

Strathcona-based Spare is developing technology to direct self-driving, on-demand buses. This allows passengers to hail rides using the internet or telephone instead of being bound to the vehicles' fixed schedules.

"Basically what you do is you say where you want to go, from where you want to go to and when you want to go," CEO Kristoffer Vik Hansen told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

Kristoffer Vik Hansen is CEO of Spare Labs. (CBC)

Hansen said Spare's on-demand technology is already in use in Dallas, Texas, and Oslo and Stavanger in Norway.

The nine-person company, mostly made up of University of British Columbia grads, was formerly behind a carpooling app but Hansen said the app was abandoned to focus on public transit.

"We've basically taken this kind of routing technology and made it more a general-type technology," he said.

Hansen explained their challenge now is to make their technology work with automated buses. So far, it has only been used with human-driven buses.

The FABULOS project will test buses in Estonia, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

The EU is spending 5.5 million euros on the project which will conclude at the end of 2020.

Listen to the full interview:

Strathcona-based Spare Labs is developing technology to route self-driving, on-demand buses so passengers to hail rides using the internet instead of always keeping to the vehicles' fixed schedules. 6:32

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast