Seoul, the South Korean capital, launched its first lane of self-driving buses on Friday, as part of an experiment that engineers said aims to make people feel more comfortable with these self-driving vehicles on the roads.
The new car does not look like an ordinary bus, it has rounded edges with large windows that make it look more like a toy than a technological breakthrough.
Jeong Seong-gyun, president of self-driving at 42dot, the start-up responsible for developing self-driving technology owned by auto giant Hyundai, said this design has a purpose.
“This is the future,” the head of the company, adding that the bus required “a new type of design”.
He explained that the bus is somewhat similar to the “Lego” cube and is made of composite parts to help reduce costs and facilitate its replication, noting that it uses cameras and lasers to navigate the road instead of expensive sensors.
The company’s goal was to make the technology low-cost, safe, and easily installable in many types of vehicles in the future, for example, delivery trucks.
For now, with a safety driver watching closely, the bus will drive itself around a 3.4-kilometer mini circuit in downtown Seoul, taking about 20 minutes.
The public can access two specific stations after reserving a free seat through the app.
“I feel like I’ve just jumped into a time machine to visit the future,” Kim Ye Hye-Rachin, 68, said after her 20-minute journey as the bus set off on Friday. “I thought it might make me dizzy from the sudden acceleration, but I didn’t feel any of it.”
“I felt the trip was very smooth and safe,” she added, which made her feel proud of the technological advances made by the South Korean company.