14 June 2017
The world’s first driverless bus is set to go into service in China after it was revealed in the city of Zhuzhou last week.
The vehicle, which is effectively a hybrid of bus, tram and train, follows a pre-set route laid out by white dots on the road. Called the Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) Smart Bus, operator CRRC says it combines the relatively low running costs of bus routes with the complexity and modularity of subway trains such as London’s Underground.
The ART will follow the pre-set path using sensors in the passenger compartments which will pick up the white dots. ART will be marketed as an option for smaller to medium sized cities that cannot afford to invest in the infrastructure necessary to have a subway or tram system.
As the bus’s autonomous systems allow it to detect other vehicles, it will be able to share the road with them and will not need to be separated from commuter traffic. Initially, each ART vehicle will have a ‘driver’ on board to take over in case of emergencies, though the drive system uses cameras and radar to remain wholly autonomous.
ART buses are doubly articulated with three separate carriages, and will hold up to 300 passengers when they start operating in 2018, along a 6.5km route through central Zhuzhou.
The ART is completely electric, and will run for 25km on a 10 minute charge, which will be incorporated into the initial infrastructure via charging points at the ‘station’ end of the line, where the ART buses will also be stored overnight. The routes will be timetabled to allow rapid recharging of the buses with minimal inconvenience to passengers.