A view of a 5G-enabled self-driving minibus in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Oct 10. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Vehicle is first of its kind in China to have passed tests on open urban roads
The 5G self-driving minibus developed by BroadXT Inc is set to make its global debut on the first day of the sixth World Internet Conference, which will be held on Oct 20-22 in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. The vehicle will be used to help ferry participants to the venue during the conference.
Powered by a variety of advanced techniques such as sensors, high-precision positioning, the fifth-generation wireless network and V2X or vehicle-to-everything cooperative vehicle infrastructure system, the autonomous bus adopts a Level-4 autopilot technology and is able to identify the pedestrian, vehicles and other obstacles within 200 meters.
BroadXT President Shang Wenzhu said the vehicle will be the first mass-produced 5G autonomous minibus in China that has passed tests on open urban roads, while the official noted China is taking the lead in autonomous driving technology.
Shang added the cloud command system can offer an optimal driving route when encountering traffic jams, accidents and extreme weather to ensure safety and enhance traffic efficiency.
"The autonomous bus could react within 100 milliseconds under complex road conditions owing to the 5G, sensors, AI and cutting-edge computing technologies," Shang explained.
During the upcoming conference, 10 self-driving minibuses will carry guests to the venue on the four-kilometer road from Wuzhen Design Building to the crossroad of Longyuan road and Huanhe road, according to Shang.
In September, Wuzhen and BroadXT inked an agreement to speed up the commercialization of 5G autonomous buses in Wuzhen. With a total investment of 650 million yuan ($92 million), the 110-square kilometer Wuzhen will be covered by an intelligent transportation system in three years.
Shang said they plan to promote the self-driving minibuses in Zhejiang province, and more cities in the Yangtze River Delta region.
Officials have high hopes for the market. China expects vehicles with some autonomous functions to account for half of new vehicles sold in the nation by 2020, a guideline released by the National Development and Reform Commission said. In April 2018, the country released a national guideline on road tests for self-driving vehicles.
Consultancy Roland Berger said China is accelerating its development of autonomous driving and is expected to become a leader in the technology, which is seen as key to the future of the automotive industry.
Chinese internet search giant Baidu Inc announced it had launched volume production of its autonomous minibus, the Apolong, in partnership with domestic manufacturer King Long.
Experts have warned, however, that firms should proceed cautiously, especially when it comes to people's safety.
"Intelligent vehicles with fully autonomous functions may account for 10 percent of the new vehicles in 2020," said Yang Diange, dean of the Automobile Engineering Department at Tsinghua University, estimating that "self-driving vehicles will become part of our daily lives in 2030."