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Christian Amsler, government president of Schaffhausen, and Winfried Kretschmann, Premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, inside one of the autonomous buses. Photo: Patrick Seeger via Getty Images

The Swiss state of Shauffhausen was the first in the world to incorporate an autonomous bus into regular route public transit in mixed traffic, a service that has transported over 12,000 passengers since it began in March. City and transit officials tasked a research team with conducting a public survey on the program's performance.

Why it matters: While the participants seem to have some concerns and unanswered questions about the transition to autonomous vehicles, the autonomous bus enjoyed high levels of approval. Public acceptance and support are key to the success of AVs in public transportation, and these results bode well for other cities looking to try autonomous buses in their transit systems.

Overall, rider concerns were low, and the project received support from the majority of the population, with around 60% of participants judging it useful. Participants showed relatively high trust in the AV technical systems themselves. System safety and reliability earned the highest approval ratings.

Yes, but: Riders were most concerned about the potential hacking of the vehicle’s software and data. Other highly ranked concerns were the interaction of the AV with cyclists and pedestrians and its reactions to unexpected situations or bad weather. Those in the 18–40 age group had more worries about the loss of jobs that AV technology could bring about. Participants were also apprehensive about transmission of data from AVs if the technology was used in their own cars: A majority objected to the sharing of data with insurance companies and the state Road Traffic Department, and even more to the Swiss Federal Tax Administration.

What’s next: The research team plans to conduct at least two more follow-up surveys in the coming year to track how attitudes change as usage of the autonomous buses continues and expands. These studies, along with others being planned in the U.S., will help guide cities rolling out their own pilot AV programs.

Paul Comfort is vice president of business development at Trapeze Group and the former CEO of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore.

Go deeper: Read the full study.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"