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Self-driving mini-bus appears in downtown Seoul for pilot shuttle service

By Lim Chang-won Posted : September 26, 2022, 14:57 Updated : September 26, 2022, 14:57

[Courtesy of Seoul City]

SEOUL -- A self-driving mini-bus developed by 42dot, a software startup acquired by South Korea's Hyundai auto group, appeared in the streets of downtown Seoul for a pilot shuttle service as part of the capital city's project to introduce commercial autonomous shuttle services for public transportation by 2026.

The eight-seater will be tested for three weeks on a 4.8-kilometer round-trip route on roads along the Cheonggyecheon stream running through downtown Seoul that has been created as part of an urban renewal project. Passengers will not be picked up and a test driver is on board to cope with unexpected situations. 

If stability is secured through the test operation, the Seoul City government will launch an official free service in October 2022 at the earliest. "We will spare no support for citizens to experience autonomous driving technology as a means of short-distance public transportation," Baek Ho, a Seoul city official in charge of urban transport, said in a statement.

With an overall length of 5.74 meters, the 3.63-ton vehicle installed with cameras and radars can travel for 300 kilometers (186 miles) on a single charge. A large panorama roof was installed on the ceiling, and windows were enlarged to reach the waist of passengers so that they could feel more open. Each seat has a screen and a USB port for charging.

Sensors that can detect pressure and light are installed on the doors to prevent passengers from being entrapped. A high-resolution digital camera imaging technology replaced side mirrors to enhance safety. A button that can activate or turn off a self-driving function is located in the center of the steering wheel for quick response to unexpected situations

On uncrowded roads, Seoul has tested self-driving services. South Korea with a web of 4G and 5G mobile data networks has designated areas to test commercial services involving self-driving cars. Self-driving shuttle services have been offered free for many years but thanks to an ordinance that took effect in July 2021, autonomous shuttle operators are allowed to receive fares from passengers. 

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