The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) today announced the launch of the self-driving electric bus shuttle service between the Zhubei City downtown area and the nearby high-speed rail station. This achievement features cooperation between the Hsinchu County Government, Yosemite Bus, Mobiletron Electronics Co., Ltd., Maxwin Technology, and Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). It constitutes the first commercial route for a self-driving bus in Taiwan and marks an important milestone in the development of smart public transport here.
The MOEA stated that Taiwan’s traffic environment is more complex than that in Europe or the North America due to its high traffic flow and vehicle density. This gives Taiwan’s ICT industries, automotive electronics suppliers and transport operators a competitive strength in developing related technology and services. In 2019, the MOEA launched the Unmanned Vehicles Technology Innovative Experimentation Plan to encourage innovative unmanned vehicle technology, services, and operation models. As of end-2020, eight trial operations involving self-driving cars had been started, along with one trial involving an autonomous water vehicle, triggering investment amounting to around NT$350 million. This plan furthermore integrates automakers and automotive electronics manufacturers including RAC Electric Vehicles Inc., ADLink Technology Inc., Unex Technology Corp., and Neousys Technology, and it aims to provide seamless transfer services to enable Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
General Director of MOEA’s Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) Chyou-Huey Chiou indicated that the new shuttle bus has three features.
Hsinchu County Magistrate Wen-Ke Yang commented that Hsinchu is home to a comprehensive technology industry chain via the Hsinchu Science Park, and that the development of self-driving cars provides innovative services for local transportation needs and enhances the value of smart technology industries. The route of this project commences at Gaotie 7th Road, following which it passes Wenxing Road, Jiafeng 5th Road, Guangming 6th Road, and Zhuangjing North Road. It is hoped this route will become part of the overall urban bus network, which can solve gaps in the public transport network and shortages of bus drivers. Magistrate Yang welcomes locals and visitors to come and experience the unique experience of riding a self-driving bus.Yosemite Bus Chairman Chih-Hung Chen remarked that his firm is an important passenger transport company in Hsinchu, having focused on bus and transport services for 30 years. It has won awards of excellence from Hsinchu County for the bus service it provides in Hsinchu City. Aiming to further develop its services, Yosemite has decided to operate self-driving electric buses. Mr. Chen explained the importance that the company places on its drivers and passengers, pointing out that the vehicles are equipped with a real-time Internet of Vehicles system to provide passenger and remote services. The company looks to embrace new business models and provide the commuting public, business travelers from other areas, and tourists with a wide range of shuttle services, embarking on an era of smart transportation. Mr. Chen expressed his appreciation to the Hsinchu County Government and the MOEA for their strong support, along with cooperative partners including Mobiletron, RAC, MaxWin, and ITRI. Mobiletron and RAC Chairman Kim Tsai stated that Mobiletron initiated investment in RAC during the early phase of electric bus development and it aims to be a leader. In addition to its in-house R&D of battery, motor and electric control system technologies, it cooperated with ITRI in the development of self-driving buses. Mobiletron is also dedicated to developing technologies to integrate the self-driving bus operation ecosystem, creating a comprehensive system that integrates people, vehicles, roads, the cloud, and services. Mr. Tsai expressed his gratitude to various agencies for their cooperation, adding that this project by Hsinchu County constitutes an important step in bringing technological results to reality. ITRI Executive Vice President Pei-Zen Chang stated that ITRI, with the support of the MOEA’s DoIT, developed the Surrounding Sensing Subsystem for autonomous vehicles and collected a large imagery training data that can be used for the unique road environment in Taiwan and in Asia. In 2018, ITRI established an industrial partnership program that linked ten manufacturers and created a self-driving vehicle industry chain. Dr. Chang furthermore pointed out that in 2019, ITRI joined hands with Mobiletron in the building of ten self-driving buses. This year, ITRI will have three of Mobiletron’s buses participate in the experimental plan. ITRI hopes that its key technology will assist even more firms involved in the Internet of Vehicles, vehicle sensors, and automotive electronics industries to branch into the self-driving vehicle industry, creating smarter lifestyles for the future.
- Taiwan’s First Self-Driving Commercial Operation on Crowded Roads: This is the first example in Taiwan in the commercial operation of a self-driving vehicle on a road with a mixture of vehicles. Tests were carried out on roads used jointly by automobiles and motorcycles in urban areas. These experiments improved the functionality of the computing system that processes people, vehicle, and road data. This better reflects the unique complexities of Taiwan’s road system and marks an enormous breakthrough, as previous operations of self-driving vehicles were limited to suburban areas or on urban roads with dedicated bus lanes.
- Smart Collision Avoidance: The bus operates using ITRI-developed iRoadsafe V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) technology, integrating data from communications, sensors, traffic signals and other sources. This solution is tantamount to having an eye in the sky that boosts operational safety. The technology won Silver at the 2019 Edison Awards and the Industry Award at the ITS World Congress.
- Links with Smart Bus Shelters: Passengers are able to easily access bus schedules, and the shelters offer two-way communication. The traffic control center can detect the flow of people waiting via a camera installed in the shelter, enabling real-time adjustment of bus frequency and monitoring the path of the self-driving bus.
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