The design for the new electronic guidance system which makes the self-steering bus possible is the brainchild of the Eindhoven STW researcher Dik de Bruin. All the driver has to do is regulate the speed of the vehicle and act as overall supervisor. He can also take action in case of a system failure or if anything untoward occurs. The plan is for the guidance system to regulate the speed when the bus is close to stops.
The bus is guided by a magnetic reference system in the road surface. Every four metres, at specific locations, a permanent magnet is installed in the asphalt. A sensor on board the bus registers the magnetic field, determining the distance between the magnet and the sensor with an accuracy of two centimetres. The vehicle has a number of sensors in various places, meaning that the measurements overlap. This means that safety is not impaired even if one of the sensors is faulty.
The bus follows a narrow track over a pre-programmed route, steering itself around bends and automatically stopping at bus stops. It is precisely positioned close to the raised platform at each stop, which leads to a reduction in the time needed for passengers to get on and off. The average speed of the vehicle over the whole route will therefore also be higher.
The new extra-long bus, which is known as Phileas, combines the advantages of a city bus and a tram. The bus, which is relatively cheap and as flexible as a normal city bus, will be introduced on a route between Eindhoven and Veldhoven in 2003. It is also as fast, economical and clean as a tram, and can carry more than two hundred passengers. It will run according to a precise and reliable timetable. The new vehicle does not need to be connected to an electrical power supply, nor does it require an expensive system of rails, meaning that the necessary construction costs are low. It will make use of a separate lane, so that it will not become involved in any tailbacks affecting other traffic. A separate lane is also a significant safety feature.
The new vehicle will run on LPG and will be driven by an electric motor. A consortium of companies led by APTS is providing the bus system. FROG Navigation Systems will be responsible for implementing the guidance system.