What you need to know
Taipei will test driverless busses in a bid to improve traffic.
The Taipei City government said Thursday that it will test-run a driverless bus next week as the capital moves toward becoming a smart city, applying information and communication technology to solve urban problems and increase quality of life for its citizens.
The driverless bus will run between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. every day from Aug. 1-5 on the exclusive bus lane on Xinyi Road, where it will collect data about road conditions, said Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), adding that the case study could help Taipei form its future 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 program will invite focus groups made up of citizens during the last two days of the test, which will run on a 463-meter closed road section between Fuxing South Road and Dunhua South Road, so that the city can get feedback from the public and raise awareness about possible smart transportation solutions, according to the city's Department of Information Technology.
"There is often a gap between innovation and government policy, which is why communication with the public plays an important role here," said department Director Lee Wei-bin (李維斌).
The department hopes to attract bottom-up initiatives from industry, while also drafting top-down policy frameworks, Lee said.
Through helping new technology providers to field-test their services, Taipei is also elevating its global profile as a smart city on the world stage, according to the department, which is overseeing the driverless bus project.
France-based driverless shuttle manufacturer EasyMile and its Taiwanese agent, 7Starlake Co., said meanwhile that the partnership with Taipei provides a future business opportunity.
7Starlake Co. President Martin Ting (丁彥允) said if the program gets positive feedback, it will seek to use a south-north thoroughfare that joins the east-west Xinyi Road for a larger-scale experiment.
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 shuttle 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, can assure a safe travel experience.
With a price tag of NT$15 million (US$496,587), the driverless bus can travel at up to 40 kilometers per hour and be able to react within 0.05 seconds, he said.
Benoit Guidee, director of the French Office in Taipei, said France is in a leading position in the field of autonomous shuttles and would love to work more closely with Taipei in its smart city initiative.
Both the Taipei City government and the driverless bus providers said the biggest obstacle before any commercial operation can hit the road lies in 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 the service can begin as soon as possible.