Look, there are no hands! My journey on the autonomous bus in Seoul

On the A21 bus, there’s a point at around midnight when the man driving pushes a little red button on his dashboard.

Look, there are no hands! My journey on the autonomous bus in Seoul
Look, there are no hands! My journey on the autonomous bus in Seoul
Grinning, he removes his hands from the steering wheel and raises his feet off the pedals. The car keeps cruising around Seoul, the capital of South Korea, pausing at traffic signals and turning. Nobody appears to notice on board.The head of operations at SUM (Smart YoUr Mobility) Park Sang-uk predicts that one day all buses in Seoul will be driverless.

His company has been working on the city’s new autonomous night bus for the last four years; according to the officials, it is the first of its kind globally. Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, are the term used to describe these buses and cars.

“There are fewer and fewer people who want to drive buses, especially at night,” said Park. “This is the perfect solution to help fill that void.”The optimal location to test the technology, which is still far from perfect, is on peaceful nighttime roadways.

On board, there are certain safety precautions. For instance, passengers are required to always be seated and wear seat belts.

In the event that something goes wrong, someone else has the ability to take over the steering wheel of the bus. Mr. Park is adamant that it won’t be necessary for long.

Most of the trip is uneventful. It stopped perhaps twenty times en route, taking us past the gleaming city center storefronts and into the darker residential neighborhoods of the capital.

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It’s scary enough to watch the steering wheel move on its own at first, then to see the bus ghost to the left and right correspondingly. However, that feeling quickly fades.That being said, there are a few instances in which the driver must take control of the vehicle and apply the brakes. The artificial intelligence (AI) operating the bus is not ready for every scenario, and these unexpected shocks serve as a reminder that there are human drivers on the road.

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