Tainan begins trial run of driverless bus service
Taipei, Aug. 13 (CNA) Tainan City has started a three-month trial run of an autonomous bus service, with the goal of launching the first commercial operation in the country in 2021, according to the local government.
The driverless technology will bring revolutionary changes to urban transportation, including improved road safety, Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said at the launch of the trial program on Aug. 9.
During the ceremony, Huang thanked the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the National Development Council for supporting the program, which has positioned Tainan to become the country's first municipality to offer commercial autonomous bus services.
According to Tainan City Bureau of Transportation Director-General Wang Ming-te (王銘德), the trial service will operate on two routes for the next three months.
One service will run on weekends only, on a 2.5 kilometer route between Nanke Railway Station and National Museum of Prehistory, while the other will be on weekdays in the Shalun Smart Green Energy Science City, where a smart vehicle testing site is located, he said.
The electric autonomous bus is equipped with six cameras and four lidars -- a remote sensing system that measures distances by illuminating a target using laser lights -- to monitor traffic conditions, Wang said.
The traffic data collected from devices installed along the routes will be processed by an artificial intelligence system on the bus for instantaneous traffic analysis as the vehicle moves, he said.
During the trial period, the bus will not carry passengers but will have someone in the driver's seat in case of any problems, he said.
National Development Council Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫), who was also at the launch ceremony, said the smart vehicle testing site in Tainan is a major step in the development of autonomous vehicle technology, which can be made available to other developers in the field.
Meanwhile, the city government said it is aiming to begin passenger services on trial basis in the fourth quarter of the year and outsource the operation to the private sector in 2021, creating the first commercial driverless bus service in the country.
Besides Tainan, New Taipei on Aug. 3 launched a free autonomous bus service, jointly developed by Chunghwa Telecom, Kingwaytek Technology and Tanshui Bus Transportation Co., which runs on a five-minute route between Kanding Light Rail Station and Miranew Square.
Taipei and Taichung are also planning to start similar trial programs.
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