Seoul launches its first driverless bus

Seoul launched its first line of self-driving buses on Friday, part of a trial that engineers who designed it say aims to make the public more confident about driverless vehicles.

The new vehicle doesn’t look like a regular bus: it’s entirely symmetrical, with rounded edges and large windows that make it look more like a toy than a state-of-the-art form of transport.

An intentional design, according to Jeong Seong-gyun, head of self-driving at 42 Dot, the start-up – now owned by South Korean company Hyundai – that created the self-driving technology featured here.

“It’s the future,” he told AFP, adding that as a result, “a remarkable new type of design was needed”.

The bus looks a bit “like a Lego” because it was made from composite parts to cut costs and make it easy to replicate, he explains.

“We want to foster the era of autonomous driving,” he said, noting that the company’s goal was to make the technology inexpensive, safer and easily transferable to many different types of vehicles. , such as delivery trucks.

For the moment placed under the close vigilance of a driver, the new bus will drive itself on a new route, a small circuit of 3.4 kilometers around the city center of the capital of South Korea, a duration of approximately 20 minutes.

People can board at any of two designated stops after reserving a free seat through an app.

To move, the bus uses a camera and radar, not expensive sensors, Jeong said.

On the day of the launch, Friday, many passers-by seemed intrigued by the design of the bus, stopping to photograph it and peer inside, or asking questions of nearby 42 Dot staff.

“I feel like I jumped into a machine to travel to the future,” comments Kim Yi hae-ran, 68, after his journey.