A self-driving bus begins its test run on a public road in Shenzhen on Saturday. (Chai Hua/China Daily)
Four self-driving buses were tested on public roads in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Saturday. It was believed to be the first such live test in the world.
Each bus looks like a normal one. There's even a driver in position for safety. But the new buses are steered automatically along designated routes without a driver's hands ever touching the wheel.
They can automatically avoid pedestrians, speed up, slow down, make an emergency stop, change roads and navigate traffic lights.
The buses used for the test can carry up to 19 passengers. Liu Xianglong - among the first passengers to experience what's called the Alphaba bus - said the trip was stable, and the bus stopped accurately at each station.
For the test runs, the route is about 1.2 kilometers, with three stations on a public road in a section of Futian district. Speeds are up to about 40 kilometers per hour. The whole trip can be covered in five minutes.
"At a 'T' intersection, a private car suddenly turned toward us and the bus slowed down," Liu recalled, "but its brake was a little too fierce."
Shenzhen Haylion Technologies Co developed the self-driving technology. Hu Jianping, chairman of Haylion, said the pilot buses cost about 500,000 yuan (,000); all were manufactured in China.
Safety is a critical issue in self-driving technology. Hu said there are seven active safety features in each bus, including lasers, infrared light, radar, sensors and a visual scanning system.
The technology has boomed worldwide in recent years, as international giants in the internet and automobile industries are all speeding up development of their own products.
In August, China Railway Rolling Stock Corp tested a 12-meter-long driverless coach in Beijing.
Yu Gang, chairman of Shenzhen Bus Group Co - one of the three major bus companies in the southern city and the operator of Alphaba - said that besides driving technologies, the new intelligent driving system also includes passenger volume analysis, smart dispatching and other features.
Test runs of the four buses have covered 8,000 kilometers so far in different parts of Shenzhen over the past four months. The buses will enter formal operation if approved.