Taipei to test driverless bus next week

by on 29/07/17 at 3:43 pm


RED TAPE:The Taipei City Government and the driverless bus providers said the greatest obstacle to any commercial operation is the lack of related traffic laws

Staff writer, with CNA

The Taipei City government on Thursday said that it would test a driverless bus next week as the capital moves toward becoming a “smart” city, applying information and communications technology to solve urban problems and increase the quality of life for its residents.

The driverless bus is to run every day from 1am to 4am from Aug. 1 to Aug. 5 on the exclusive bus lane on Xinyi Road, where it is to collect data about road conditions, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said, adding that the test run could help the city formulate new transportation policies.

“The government should be bold, embrace innovation and experiment,” Ko said. “New technology and new thinking are the solutions to future problems.”

The city would invite focus groups consisting of residents during the last two days of the test, which is to run on a 463m section of closed road between Fuxing S Road and Dunhua S Road, to collect feedback and raise awareness about possible “smart” transportation solutions, the Taipei Department of Information Technology said.

“There is often a gap between innovation and government policy, which is why communication with the public plays an important role,” department Director Lee Wei-bin (李維斌) said.

The department hopes to attract bottom-up initiatives from businesses, while also drafting top-down policy frameworks, Lee said.

By helping new technology providers to test their services in the field, Taipei is also elevating its profile as a “smart” city on the world stage, said the department, which is overseeing the driverless bus project.

France-based driverless shuttle manufacturer EasyMile and its Taiwanese agent, 7Starlake Co, said that the partnership with Taipei provides a business opportunity.

If the program receives positive feedback, the firm would seek to use a north-south thoroughfare alongside the east-west Xinyi Road segment for a larger test, 7Starlake president Martin Ting (丁彥允) said.

As many as eight shuttles might be introduced, he said, adding that the fleet could become a solution to late-night or peak-hour transportation by reducing the workload of bus drivers.

The bus to be used in the project can carry 12 passengers, Ting said, adding that six lidar sensors incorporated in the vehicle, which measure distance to a target by illuminating the target with a pulsed laser light, assures a safe travel experience.

The driverless bus, which costs NT$15 million (US$495,016), can travel at up to 40kph and is able to react to changing conditions within 0.05 seconds, he added.

France is a leader in the field of autonomous shuttles and would like to work more closely with Taipei on its “smart” city initiative, French Office in Taipei Director Benoit Guidee said.

Both the Taipei City Government and the driverless bus providers said the biggest obstacle before any commercial operation is the lack of related traffic laws.

They expressed hope that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications can establish regulations governing the driverless bus market so services can begin as soon as possible.

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