France has begun trialing driverless buses

Sometimes, science fiction gets it really wrong (remember self-tying shoes and flying cars in Back to the Future?) but occasionally – just occasionally, it hits the nail right on the head and fiction becomes reality. Which is exactly what’s happened in Paris, where two driverless electric buses have taken to the streets in a three-month trial.

Whilst we like to think of Paris as the city of love, it’s actually a city of air pollution, chronic smog and traffic congestion (not so romantic now, is it?). Paris has already introduced transport free days to try and reduce its level of pollution and putting driverless buses on the road is another bid to try and sort out the city’s busy streets and dirty air.

At the moment, the two buses (known as ‘EZ10’) provide a shuttle service between the Lyon and d’Austerlitz train stations and can carry up to 12 passengers . If the trial’s successful, then more routes will be added to the current test route of 130m (or about 142 yards in old money).

But it’s not just Paris that’s trialling automated vehicles. In Singapore there really is such a thing as a free ride – so long as you get one of the self-driving taxis, launched in August 2016 . The six taxis are still in their test phase so haven’t been let loose throughout Singapore’s streets, instead they operate in a patch around 4 km square or just over two and a half miles . The taxis find their way around using a system of lasers and pick up and drop offs are currently limited to pre-determined spots (so sadly you can’t just hail one to the nearest bar – yet).

Plus, we’ve even got our own trials going on, right here in the UK. Last year, Milton Keynes trialled driverless two seater cars in a 1km loop around the town and train station. The long-term plan is for an entire fleet of 40 driverless vehicles to serve the public by 2019.

But the everyday occurrence of driverless cars ferrying people around is still some time away and in the meantime, there are some other, more tried and tested ways of getting around town – some of them more hair-raising than others. Like travelling on Shanghai’s Maglev train, which works by magnets repelling against each other so that it hovers through the air a few inches above the tracks. And if the thought of being on a train propelled by the power of magnets alone isn’t scary enough – it can reach speeds of 431kph – that’s more than 250 mph (so hang on to your hats).

Or, if the Maglev’s still a bit too futuristic for you, try the slightly more rustic Habal-Habal from the Philippines. It’s basically an old motorbike with planks strapped to the sides and can carry up to ten people (or a few less if you want to add luggage) . But let’s be honest – it sounds just as scary as a 250mph magnet train; so for more stable transport, hop on a Tangah from Pakistan which is a good old fashioned horse and car t.

Of course, for most of us, our modes of transport are a little less…unusual and we have to make do with regular cars that we have to drive ourselves, which means making sure we’re adequately insured. We know it all sounds rather prosaic compared to self-driving cars and super-fast trains, and it’s not so much Back to the Future as back to reality – but needs must so make sure you get a great deal and today.

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