Look, no driver, as students take the bus

University trials automatic vehicle that can take eight passengers a time on a safe and smooth journey between stops.
Dong Jun / SHINE

A driverless minibus is being tested on Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Xuhui campus.

A driverless minibus on the Shanghai Jiao Tong University campus is attracting the attention of curious students and teachers.

After they scan a QR code at any of the four stops along a fixed route, the bus will pick them up and take them to another stop they have selected.

On board, they can use its touch screen or speak to its voice interaction system to change their destination.

The eight-seat vehicle is powered by electricity, runs and makes turns automatically.

When a car is coming in the opposite direction it will slow down, and when there are obstacles in front — cars or pedestrians — it will stop and restart once the way is clear.

“I’m excited to see the bus and have ridden it three times,” said a student surnamed Wang.

“I’ve seen driverless cars reported in news stories for years and it’s my first time to ride on a real self-driving car. I feel really proud of Jiao Tong.”

The bus, on a trial run, can operate in adverse weather conditions due to a special positioning and navigation system developed by the university’s Research Institute of Intelligence Vehicles.

Unlike other driverless vehicles that rely on GPS, which can be affected by the surrounding environment and bad weather, the team from Jiao Tong installed laser radars on the bus and used simultaneous localization and mapping technology to make it more stable.

“The laser radars are developed by our team members and are able to resist interference from bad weather,” said Yang Ming, director of the institute. 

“We believe that people need driverless vehicles in bad weather more than in good weather.”

The bus has been in service since May 2 and last weekend, it carried 200 passengers a day smoothly and safely, he added.

To ensure safety, the bus has a maximum speed of 15 kilometers per hour.

Yang said the cost of developing their driverless vehicle was almost a 10th of the price of those developed in Europe, which makes it a better commercial proposition.

But Yang also said there is a long way to go before the bus can leave the campus and run on roads. “The system needs to do more learning to cope with the scenarios on roads open to all,” he said.

Dong Jun / SHINE

A man, along with a child, takes a tour on the bus. Passengers can use the touch screen or speak to its voice interaction system to change their destination.

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