Kerala MVD approves resumption of driverless bus service

A few weeks ago, a video of a bus driving around Palakkad district in Kerala went viral after launching a new experiment. The bus was actually traveling on a driverless route. After the Motor Vehicle Department came across the video, the Kerala Motor Vehicle Department stopped the bus service as it violated the rules. In good news, Kerala Motor Vehicle Department has now decided to grant permission to continue the bus service which has been stopped. The decision was taken with the aim of promoting new and innovative experiences by bus operators.

Earlier, the Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) had raised an objection about this bus service as it was operating against the rules. The Department of Motor Vehicles said that according to Rule 219 of the Motor Vehicle Rules of Kerala, a bus must have a driver to collect money and distribute tickets. Tickets are the passenger’s right and it is impossible to run a bus without a driver on board.

Thomas Kadankavil, the owner of the bus, mentioned that he has now received communication from the Department of Transportation that bus service can resume. Another interesting fact about this private bus is the fact that it is the first private bus in Kerala to run on CNG. The bus was traveling on a 10 km route between Vadakkencherry and Alathur. The bus starts its journey from Vadakkencherry and passes through villages like Nelliampadam, Thennilapuram and Erattakulam before reaching Alathur. It returns to Vadakkencherry following the same route. The bus started service last week without a driver and for the first two days it ran without any problems. A box has been kept inside the bus where passengers can deposit their money. A QR code to make online payment is also placed inside the bus. For those who had no money, they had the option of putting the money in the box the next day.

If the bus charges the minimum fare from passengers, it has the right to give passengers a ticket, but in this case, the authorities found that the owner did not ask for money, and passengers voluntarily put money in the box. The money that is put inside the box is considered a donation and for the same reason it does not violate the rule. In India, most private and government buses operating on Indian roads are equipped with drivers. This driverless bus service is actually unique and can prove profitable for owners.

The bus runs on CNG which greatly reduces the cost of running the bus and with this owner can save money that he would normally pay the driver as passengers put the amount in the box. Apart from India, many countries operate driverless buses. They have systems where the passenger takes the driver’s ticket when they board or in advance at the bus stop and scans it once they board the bus.

Melvin Z. Madore