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Tainan Team of Self-driving Buses Signs Letter of Intent. Mayor Huang Hopes Autonomous Bus Operations Can Be Transferred to Private Sector As Soon As Possible

LILEE Systems, Taiwan Optical Platform, Tainan Bus, and KGET signed a Letter of Intent on April 8th, officially announcing the establishment of the Tainan Team of Self-driving Buses. The ceremony, which was witnessed by Mayor Huang Wei-che, marks a new milestone in Tainan’s autonomous bus project as it signifies progress in transferring operations to the private sector. Prior to the signing event, test runs with passengers had already been completed at Shalun and Southern Taiwan Science Park.
 

Mayor Huang remarked that Tainan strives to become a smart city and smart transportation applications bring the most obvious changes to the public’s daily lives. The deployment of self-driving vehicles not only is a global trend but also can bring revolutionary change to urban transportation as the technology can break through current limitations such as driver work hours, driving safety, vehicle dispatching, and rural transportation issues. The Mayor also expressed that he is pleased to see private companies test out their autonomous vehicle technology in Tainan and looks forward to the day when Tainan’s autonomous buses officially come into service.

 

Wang Ming-de, Director-General of Tainan’s Bureau of Transportation, pointed out that the Tainan self-driving bus experimental project was approved by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) last year and also obtained temporary licenses. Currently, there are two test routes: the Shalun route and the Southern Taiwan Science Park route. For safety reasons, the buses were only allowed in closed-off streets during the initial stage and test runs without passengers were later done on open roads. This March, the buses completed test rides with passengers, transporting over 800 people during the trial period. While the general feedback was pretty good, the trial run also exposed certain issues that could be improved on.

 

The experimental project passed MOEA review this March and has been extended for another year. In the second year of the project, bus operators and auto-parts manufacturers will be introduced into the team. They will take part in conducting technical testing and verify the feasibility of future operation transfer models.

 

The subsequent phase of the project will feature four major upgrades that will be applied to the vehicles, intersection infrastructure, applied technologies, and operations, respectively. In terms of vehicle upgrades, vehicle manufacturer KGET will provide two electric mid-size buses, which will be remodeled by technology vendor LILEE Systems. For intersection infrastructure upgrades, Taiwan Optical Platform will complete signal interfacing at four spots and blind spot detection at two locations. After the adjustments, signals and road images can be directly transmitted to the vehicle’s on-board unit, which will then assist the autonomous vehicle to safely pass through the intersection.

 

In terms of technology upgrades, automatic obstacle avoidance and item tracking functions will be added to optimize signal recognition capabilities. This will make the ride more comfortable and enhance system stability and reliability as well. Operation upgrades will be brought in by local bus operator Tainan Bus. They expect to officially launch self-driving bus commercial services in the third quarter this year. Bus fares for the self-driving buses will be the same as regular buses.

 

The Bureau of Transportation has stated that due to Tainan’s active promotion of smart transportation, many private businesses are noticing the potential of this field in the city and thus willing to invest resources to form the Tainan Team of Self-driving Buses. Participants who signed the LOI today include LILEE Systems which have been working on railway and highway control systems for many years, major domestic company Taiwan Optical Platform, local bus operator Tainan Bus, and electric vehicle manufacturer KGET. Supporting vendors include Startrii, which will be responsible for remodeling the vehicles; and Hsin Yeong An Cable TV, which owns comprehensive high-speed communications infrastructure in the area. The launch of the Tainan Team of Self-driving Buses helps realize the vision of transferring autonomous bus operations to the private sector.