Two autonomous, driverless buses have started serving some of the busiest areas of the city of Seoul in the wee hours of the night!
This new A21 bus line began its service on the night of December 4. It has 20 stops spread along the route linking the Hongdae district, in the western part of the city, to that of Dongdaemun, in the northeast. These two neighborhoods are among those with a very lively nightlife in Seoul. Buses run exclusively on weekdays from 11:30 p.m. until 5:10 a.m. the next morning.
The city noted that this is the first time in the world that a public night transport line is entirely provided by autonomous buses. These vehicles, converted models of Hyundai Motor’s Elec City commercial vehicle, have the same dimensions as other city buses.
No passengers are allowed to stand during the journey, and everyone must fasten their seat belts to allow the bus to move. For the first night, from last night to this morning, two people were on board each vehicle to ensure safety, including one seated in the driver’s seat who did not have his hands on the steering wheel but who could intervene in the event of an issue. Buses travel slower than normal buses, between 30 and 40 km/h, and keep a safe distance from vehicles in front of them at all times.
The service on this line is currently free and should remain so until it is well established, before the application of normal rates in the first half of next year. The city plans to extend the current line but also to offer new autonomous bus lines on long routes connecting urban centers to the suburbs.