Norway nears political agreement over driverless buses

Several Norwegian cities could see driverless buses on their roads within the next few years, with a majority in parliament expected to vote on Tuesday in favour of a new law enabling the automated transport to be trialled.

Norway nears political agreement over driverless buses
File photo: Terje Pedersen / NTB scanpix

Authorities in Oslo, Stavanger and Kongsberg already have plans in motion to implement the driverless buses in the near future, reports broadcaster NRK.

Oslo has hired operator Ruter to carry out a trial of the buses within the next one to two years.

“This is a technology that can dramatically change the concept of public transport,” Ruter’s administrative director Bernt Reitan Jenssen told NRK.

“We do not know how quickly [the process] will go, but it is hugely important for us to keep up and make an early start to learn more,” Jenssen added.

One key aspect of introducing the new transport form is whether it will reduce the number of bus drivers needed to operate public buses, with large parts of bus networks able to run automatically.

“Automatic operation of both buses and cars will reduce the need for drivers,” Jenssen confirmed.

But the leader of the Yrkestrafikkforbundet (Vocational Drivers’) association said that this would not necessarily hold true.

“A driver does more than operate a bus. Drivers are also responsible for safety and to help passengers,” the association’s chairperson Jim Klungnes told NRK.

“Increasing numbers are expected to use public transport, so more drivers will be needed, so this will also be a part of what type of public transport we have in future,” he added.

Lawmakers in Norway’s Stortinget parliament will be concerned with safety, among other aspects, as they look to pass laws providing for the testing of driverless buses.

Minister for Transport Ketil Solvik Olsen told NRK he expected a law enabling testing to be passed, thereby contributing to ensuring the safety of automated transport.

“We want to provide for legal testing of automated vehicles on Norwegian roads,” Olsen said.

Much safety is already ensured by computers, but thorough testing was required to ensure 100 percent safety, the minister added.

READ ALSO: Driverless Norwegian public transport can create jobs: minister


Norway rules out 2022 oil licences in unexplored areas

Norway will not grant new oil exploration licences in virgin or little-explored areas in 2022 under a political compromise on Monday that hands a modest  victory to opponents of fossil fuels.

Norway rules out 2022 oil licences in unexplored areas
A photo taken on August 30, 2021 shows the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger, Norway, built to show the history of Norway's oil exploration. Norway is the largest producer of hydrocarbons in Western Europe. In the face of the climate emergency, voices are being raised to abandon fossil fuels for good. Petter BERNTSEN / AFP

The Scandinavian country’s governing centre-left coalition supports continuing oil and gas activities but does not have a parliamentary majority, making it reliant on socialist MPs who prioritise green issues.

As part of a compromise on the draft 2022 budget, three parties agreed on Monday that Norway — Western Europe’s largest hydrocarbon producer — would not hold a 26th so-called “ordinary” concession round next year.

This mechanism has allowed oil companies to apply for exploration in previously unexplored areas of the Norwegian continental shelf since 1965.

But the deal does not rule out awarding oil licences in already heavily exploited areas.

Since the North Sea has been extensively explored, the agreement mainly concerns the Barents Sea in the Arctic

The oil industry was a major issue in legislative elections in September, indicating Norway’s growing difficulties in reconciling environmental concerns with exploiting energy resources.

In the 25th concession round in early 2021, only seven oil companies, including Equinor, Shell and Lundin, applied — the lowest number since at least 1978 according to local media.