Seoul Launches World's First Self-Driving Night Bus Service

Seoul launches world's first self-driving bus service, addressing declining ridership, but raises concerns about job displacement for bus drivers.

Mazhar Abbas
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Seoul Launches World's First Self-Driving Night Bus Service

Seoul Launches World's First Self-Driving Night Bus Service

Seoul has launched a self-driving bus service, allowing passengers to experience autonomous public transportation in the South Korean capital. The service, operated by SUM Smart Your Mobility, is the first of its kind in the world and is designed to address the declining ridership of buses, especially at night.

The autonomous buses are classified as Level 3 vehicles, meaning human intervention is required in certain situations. While the trip is largely smooth, there are times when the driver needs to take control. "The bus drives itself, but there are times when I have to intervene," said Kim Young-sik, one of the safety drivers.

Passengers have mixed reactions to the new service. Some feel excited to experience the advanced technology, while others express nervousness about riding in a self-driving vehicle. "I feel a little anxious because it's my first time on a self-driving bus," said passenger Choi Seong-eun, a 68-year-old Seoul resident.

The South Korean government plans to invest over $1 billion in autonomous driving technologies and infrastructure by 2027. However, some experts remain skeptical about the feasibility of fully autonomous vehicles, arguing that the technology has not yet solved all the challenges posed by real-world driving conditions.

Why this matters: The launch of Seoul's self-driving bus service represents a significant step forward in the development and implementation of autonomous public transportation. As cities around the world grapple with traffic congestion and declining public transit ridership, self-driving buses could offer a potential solution to these challenges.

The introduction of self-driving buses has also raised concerns among bus drivers, who fear that the technology could replace human labor. The Seoul city government has not consulted with the bus drivers' union about its plans for an autonomous future, leading to uncertainty about the impact on jobs in the public transportation sector.

Key Takeaways

  • Seoul launches world's first self-driving bus service to address declining ridership.
  • Autonomous buses are Level 3, requiring human intervention in certain situations.
  • Passengers have mixed reactions, with some excited and others nervous about the technology.
  • South Korea plans to invest $1B in autonomous driving by 2027, but experts remain skeptical.
  • Self-driving buses raise concerns among bus drivers about potential job losses.