Chinese bus manufacturer Yutong recently launched the world's first driverless bus with the help of laser radars, according to a press release on the Yutong website.
The innovative vehicle recently completed its 32.6km trial journey along the intercity road from Zhengzhou to Kaifeng. Along the way it faced a number of complex driving challenges, such as responding to traffic lights—there are 26 on the road—lane changes, and overtaking. It arrived at its destination having had no human assistance, although its highest speed reached only 68 km (42 miles) per hour.
Experts suggest that unmanned vehicles could have a safety advantage over standard vehicles on the road, as they eliminate the opportunity for human error that can lead to traffic accidents.
But while tech companies in the US have focused on personal automated cars, Yutong takes the concept a step further with the potential for a large-scale, unmanned transport system.
The spacious bus has been under development for the past three years with the help of renowned experts such as Li Deyi, an academic from the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
The intelligent driving system operates using three elements which act as the vehicle's eyes, ears and brain, working together to enable a smooth and seamless operation without the need for human involvement.
These include an intelligence control system; an intelligence master controller that 'tells' it when to slow down, go faster or stop; and an intelligence sensing system, which uses lasers for pinpoint accuracy. The latter system harnesses laser radar and in-built cameras to provide a panoramic view, which is essential when driving safely on the road.
If there is an emergency, the bus will operate varied braking modes to avoid a collision â€“ the laser radar calculates the relative speed and distance against other vehicles on the road, and adjusts the bus's speed accordingly.
Yutong's deputy general engineer, Tang Wang, explains that the bus will go through a further three developmental stages before it can be applied in real life—these include basic movement control, driving on race lanes and driving on average road conditions.