A small fleet of self-driving public buses has started running on the roads of China’s tech district of Shenzhen, Guangdong.
The four buses are currently on trial, and will run over three stops on a public road about 1.2 km (0.75 mi) long.
But where typical self-driving bus projects involve smaller shuttle capsules, the four buses are nearly full-sized buses, able to carry up to 19 passengers.
Other recent autonomous shuttles around the world have typically looked more like this:
A self-driving bus in Paris, produced by Easymile.
The first German autonomous public transport bus, from state-owned rail company Deutsche Bahn.
The Chinese buses will go up to about 40 km/h (24.8 mph), and are equipped with the typical sensing tech you’d find on other autonomous vehicles, such as Lidar, cameras and a GPS.
The fare is 1 yuan (15 cents USD), although it’s free for the trial period.
The public trial of the Alphaba project comes after rounds of private tests, which have already seen the buses cover about 8,000 km prior to this, China Daily reports.
Tap to pay
The Shenzhen Bus Group, which runs Alphaba, has pledged to start similar autonomous trials in 10 more Chinese cities after this one wraps.
It intends to add more technologies to the buses too, including a way to analyse peak passenger traffic periods, so that buses can automatically adjust their dispatch schedules to match.
The city of Shenzhen opened the 1.2 km self-driving test route in September, together with another longer one stretching 3 km (1.86 mi), to cover 10 stops. We can expect another set of buses to hit that one.