Jerusalem, Israel, 13 April, 2022 - Following the Government's decision to promote a national plan for smart-transportation, the Ministry of Transport, the National Public Transport Authority, the Israel Innovation Authority, and Ayalon Highways today announced the launch of a NIS 20 million national initiative to conduct autonomous public transportation pilots in Israel.
The two-phase initiative is aimed at examining the feasibility of integrating autonomous vehicles in the public transportation system in Israel, and includes an examination of various operational models, looking at economic and operational efficiency. Accordingly, the initiative will connect public transportation operators with innovative technology companies in Israel and around the world, and work to increase public awareness of autonomous vehicles and the issues surrounding their development, such as safety, driving experience, and environmental benefits.
In the first phase of the pilot, the Israel Innovation Authority will issue a call for proposals for technologies for autonomous buses. The companies accepted will receive a grant, and be required to perform a series of pilots looking at operational technological feasibility.
In the second phase, companies that successfully completed the first phase and met all necessary regulatory approvals, will receive a license to operate independent public transport services on public roads from the National Public Transport Authority - including passenger transport. This means that within two years, Israelis will be able to board autonomously operated bus lines and enjoy the use of this groundbreaking technology.
The initiative will also allow for the mapping of the infrastructure needed to operate an autonomous public transportation system, and support and test the business plan of public transportation operators, with the intention that within a year or two, companies successfully completing the pilot will be given the opportunity to commercially operate public transportation services in Israel.
In the past few years, Israel has been a leading country in the field of smart transportation, with over 600 Israeli relevant startups and over 20 development centers for car manufacturers and their suppliers. Simultaneously, in March 2022, an amendment to the country’s Traffic Ordinance was approved that would allow more advanced pilots to be conducted, including the commercial operation of an autonomous vehicle without a driver.
Additionally, Israel is interested in integrating the existing technologies on the market into the public transportation system in Israel, with the understanding that in the future, transportation in Israel will be based on efficient and smart public transportation. Harnessing Israeli technological innovation in the field of autonomous vehicles to improve Israel’s public transportation system will greatly contribute to Israel becoming a leading country in the development of autonomous public transportation.
Michal Frank, Director General of the Ministry of Transport said the following: “The initiative is a direct continuation of the legislation recently passed in the Knesset, enabling the commercial operation of autonomous vehicles. The publication of the current call for proposals is an expression of the Ministry's vision for promoting public transportation and innovation in transportation in Israel. I want to thank our partners in the Israel Innovation Authority and Ayalon Highways, and I invite public transportation operators and technology companies to participate and be a part of this historic step.”
Dror Bin, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority stated: “The smart-transportation initiative is expected to help dramatically with one of the biggest challenges facing the State of Israel: road congestion. Moving to fleets of autonomous, driverless buses will help streamline the public transportation system, improve the level of safety, and deal with the shortage of drivers – all within a few years. Today, Israel is already one of the world's leading countries in the field of autonomous vehicles, given the number of companies and research and development centers operating here. Along with advancing regulation that will enable more advanced experiments, we strive to encourage and promote further experiments, in combination with the existing technologies in the municipal public transportation system in Israel.”
Orly Stern, CEO of Ayalon Highways said: “The smart-transportation initiative to integrate autonomous buses into the public transportation system has significant potential impact for future transportation solutions Ayalon Highways is promoting to deal with road congestion and improve road safety. Ayalon Highways is thankful for the cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, the National Public Transport Authority, and the Israel Innovation Authority in advancing pilots that promote sustainable public transportation and autonomous driving technologies that will lead to improving and streamlining the public transportation system in Israel.”