China's biggest electric carmaker BYD launched an unmanned driving system for its monorail in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Jan 10, 2018.(Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
China's biggest electric carmaker BYD on Wednesday officially showed the world its automatic driving technology with the launch of a self-driving monorail system in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
The company also plans to develop the technology for its buses on fixed routes, such as for airports and harbors, by around 2020 and even apply it to passenger vehicles in the future, according to one of the company's executives.
The SkyRail, which started operating last August with human drivers, has now become China's first driverless straddle-type monorail system with 100 percent proprietary intellectual property rights. In the second quarter of 2018, the new train will be officially put into use at a speed up to 80 kilometers per hour.
Carrying more than 100 people along a stretch of track in China Flower Expo Park in Yinchuan, BYD's SkyRail does not need a driver－in fact, there isn't even a driver's operation room.
It has realized the highest level of automatic driving for rail transportation. In the morning, it can "wake up" by itself, and do a "body check", such as checking its battery, lighting and air conditioning. Then it automatically initiates service for passengers, who can enter the stations via facial recognition, and puts itself to "sleep" again after work.
Chinese Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is providing the latest 4.5G eLTE service for SkyRail communication system.
BYD Chairman and President Wang Chuanfu said rail transit is the most ideal carrier of all transportation methods to implement unmanned driving for now, and the technology can substantially cut operating expenditure, 60 percent of which is labor cost.
He also said BYD will expand the technology to all SkyRail projects, including those overseas. It has signed construction agreements with about 20 cities in China as well as some international destinations, including Egypt and the Philippines.
The monorail business is now one of BYD's four key sectors, which also include cars, mobile phone components and batteries.
"The domestic market for monorail trains is as large as 10 trillion yuan ($153 billion) and for the international market, it will be about 3 trillion yuan, in the next 20 years," Wang said.
Unmanned rail transportation has been rapidly developing in China. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have set up self-driving trains, while an additional nine cities in China are building such routes, said Zhou Xiaoqin, executive vice-chairman of the China Association of Metros, at a forum in Beijing last November.
He said he believes fully automatic driving will gradually become standard technology for urban rail transit.
Developing automatic driving in the railway sector has been written into the latest national three-year action plan (2018-20) for upgrading the manufacturing business by the National Development and Reform Commission.