By the end of August, two self-driving vehicles will be driving from the visitors’ center of the National Forest Service (Staatsbosbeheer) to Wester Es in Appelscha.
This makes Ooststellingwerf the first municipality where a self-driving vehicle with passengers is allowed to go onto the road. It concerns a three-month pilot project. The municipality of Ooststellingwerf is the initiator of the project and regards this new form of transport as a solution for better accessibility and quality of life in shrinking rural regions. The test conducted in Appelscha is therefore unique and attracts attention in Europe. Residents and tourists can have free rides.
The municipality of Ooststellingwerf regards this new, smart, safe and clean form of public transport as an innovative connection between the population and their amenities. It increases social mobility and helps to improve the quality of life in the countryside. The provinces of Groningen, Fryslân and Drenthe recognize its potential in this regard and want to put the Northern Netherlands on the map as the test region for autonomous transport. The test in Appelscha is intended to become the first of several pilot projects in the northern provinces. Late August, the four parties will officially lay down their joint project in a declaration of intent. This will also be the time when the test officially starts.
In the middle of June, the Government Road Transport Agency (‘RDW’) granted the municipality of Oostellingwerf permission for the test. Final inspections will be carried out when the shuttle minibuses arrive. The self-driving vehicle communicates with the road and the traffic lights. This is why measures will be taken with regard to the 2.5-kilometer-long track in Applescha this summer. There will always be a steward in the vehicle who can stop the vehicle in the event of an emergency. The shuttle minibus will only drive during daytime and when the weather is good.
The vehicle is an EZ10 of Easymile. This self-driving vehicle is fully automatic and drives on electricity. The vehicle has no steering wheel and no pedals. It offers room for 10 persons and has a maximum speed of 15 km an hour.