By David Meyer
October 26, 2017

If you find yourself in the picturesque Bavarian spa town of Bad Birnbach anytime soon, you will be able to try out some futuristic technology.

Known mainly for its curative thermal baths, the town—not far from the Austrian border—will from next year have a self-driving bus carrying passengers between the town center and its railway station.

Deutsche Bahn, the national rail operator, took the autonomous vehicle on its maiden voyage on Wednesday. The electric bus, made by French firm EasyMile, travelled 700 meters (765 yards) between the station and the Birnbacher baths—its limited route for preliminary tests.

District councillor Michael Fahmüller said the development was particularly important for rural areas, as people there tend to be utterly reliant on their cars. With low passenger volumes, public transport providers often find it hard to invest in regular services.

“If the autonomous bus regularly transports people in Bad Birnbach today, this is a clear sign of the mobility and flexibility of public transport in the future, especially in rural areas,” he said. “We are proud to be the pioneer here.”

This was the first such journey to be undertaken in Germany, but Deutsche Bahn plans further rollouts in 2018, including in Hamburg.

Trials of driverless buses are also underway in other countries such as the U.K., Singapore and the U.S..

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