Seoul launches commercial autonomous shuttle service


Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon was the first passenger in a new commercial driverless shuttle service launched in the western district of Sangam-dong city on Monday. Photo by Thomas Maresca / UPI

SEOUL, November 29 (UPI) – South Korea’s capital on Monday unveiled a commercial self-driving car service, the first step in an ambitious plan to bring autonomous vehicles into daily life over the next five years.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon led a ceremony Monday afternoon to kick off the three self-driving sedan pilot project in the western Sangam-dong neighborhood.

“Autonomous driving is no longer a technology of the future,” said Oh. “He is already here with us. Today, autonomous public vehicles have started to serve our citizens.”

The three cars will carry passengers on a pair of routes spanning approximately 2.3 square miles, covering a busy subway station, apartment complexes and office buildings. The city has announced that it will expand the fleet with three more vehicles, including a bus, by the end of December.

Users will be able to flag a ride using a personalized app and will not have to pay for the first month of service. Starting in January, a fare will be charged – the price has yet to be set, but officials have said it will cost no more than $ 1 for the bus and $ 2.50 for a car ride.

The vehicles are operated by two private companies, 42dot and SWM, licensed by the city government.

In 2022, Seoul plans to start expanding its services to other parts of the city, bringing fully-automated robot taxis to Gangnam at the start of the year and running self-driving buses around downtown. here April.

By 2026, Seoul will have more than 300 autonomous vehicles on the roads, at a cost of $ 125 million, the city hall said in a statement.

Mayor Oh became the first passenger of the new autonomous driving service on Monday, traveling 1.8 miles through an area of ​​Sangam-dong known as Digital Media City, in which several broadcasters and IT companies are located. .

Afterwards, he told reporters that he did not notice any major difference from a regular car trip.

“I was a little anxious at first,” Oh said. “Corn [the vehicle] started slowly, and when it stopped I felt like I was in a car driven by a very skillful driver. It’s amazingly fun to start such an experience in the middle of Seoul. “

Onlookers said they were interested in trying the new vehicles for themselves.

“I’m very curious,” said Lee Kwang-su, 65. “I want to learn more about the technology first, but I think I’ll give it a try if I get the chance.”

The mayor said the data and experience from this pilot project would be invaluable as Seoul seeks to become one of the best cities in the world for autonomous driving.

“Many cities around the world have entered a state of competition for autonomous driving,” he said. “We will spare no effort to help Seoul become a leading city in the competition.”

Seoul isn’t the first city to market a driverless service – projects underway elsewhere include Google’s Waymo One taxi service in suburban Phoenix and Baidu’s robotaxi service in Beijing.

But South Korea aims to be a global leader in the entire industry of future mobility, from electric and hydrogen vehicles to flying cars to autonomous driving.

“The autonomous driving market is a golden market for revitalizing the economy and creating new jobs,” President Moon Jae-in said in 2019. He predicted that more than half of cars sold in South Korea by 2030 would be self-sustaining and the country is investing some $ 1.9 billion in building infrastructure to support the industry.

The South Korean private sector is also spending heavily on future mobility, with investments of some $ 50 billion planned over the next decade.

On Monday, automaker Hyundai showcased some of its own autonomous concept vehicles and co-sponsored an autonomous driving competition for Korean college teams with the Seoul government.

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