Driverless bus set to debut

Hands-free mode: From October, this lone bus that can drive by itself will ply the Sunway BRT road in order for regulators to evaluate parameters such as safety, reliability and efficiency as Malaysia tries to ramp up the use of buses in urban areas.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s first ever autonomous bus trial will be rolled out here next month.

Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd will be introducing this joint effort on its Sunway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network using a single fully-imported bus from China for a year.

Yesterday, Rapid Bus, a subsidiary of Prasarana Malaysia Bhd, exchanged the memorandum of understanding with eMoovit Technology Sdn Bhd for this trial, which will not carry any passengers initially.

Rapid Bus head, Muhammad Yazurin Sallij, said: “Rapid Bus chose this autonomous bus technology to enhance the public transport sector in line with the need to increase sustainability and environmental friendliness,” he said at the event witnessed by Hamidi Adam, the deputy secretary of land transport at the Transport Ministry.

“The implementation of the trial will focus on the effect of autonomous electric buses on the urban transport system from a technological, social, and economic standpoint,” he added.

This low-key trial, which will also be initially conducted during after service hours on the elevated BRT track that runs all across Bandar Sunway, will provide valuable input for optimisation of self-driving buses in the future when it can be shown that they can be operated safely and efficiently, while reducing costs and manpower needs. The exchange of the MOU was conducted at the Sunway BRT complex here, where eMoovit was represented by its chief executive officer Dr Hairi Zamzuri.

Hairi said: “We hope the introduction of this autonomous electric vehicle will bring benefits such as reduction of emissions, increase in service efficiency as well as energy use.

“According to a recent statement from the General Insurance Association of Malaysia, more than 80% of road accidents in Malaysia are caused by driver error. This is worrisome, and our aspiration is that the use of autonomous vehicles will be able to reduce human errors,” he added.

eMoovit is a company that focuses on autonomous mobility software, with a focus on solving problems in the public transport sector.

The Sunway BRT is currently Malaysia’s only BRT network that runs on a closed circuit, thus making the autonomous vehicle trial to demonstrate proof-of-concept here a natural option.

The electric bus in question, manufactured by Kinglong, is able to take up to 25 passengers, when standing passengers are combined with seated ones.

“Safety of passengers and road users has led Rapid Bus to use the Sunway BRT as the choice location, other than facilitating the supervision of this trial,” he added.

The Sunway BRT was the world’s first all-electric BRT system when it was launched in 2015 to serve Bandar Sunway and Subang Jaya, with an interchange at the USJ7 station to the Kelana Jaya LRT.

Currently, a fleet of electric buses from BYD ply the 5.4km elevated track between Setia Jaya and USJ7, serving seven stops along the way.

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