April 20, 2021

China bets heavily on autonomous buses | Trends

China bets heavily on autonomous buses | Trends


That a bus goes up to the stage of a convention center is not the most usual, and even less that it does it without anyone touching the steering wheel. That is why Anderson Chen, founder and current CEO of Deep Blue Technology, he held his breath last Friday when his Panda AI Bus He made a triumphal entry into the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai. "In such a narrow space, and with the interference that creates the screen that covers the entire stage, I was afraid that the vehicle would behave unexpectedly," Chen acknowledged with a sigh of relief when he took the stage to present the first autonomous urban bus that enters service in China.

As the name suggests, this 12-meter-long, 18-ton electric vehicle looks like a panda: it uses black and white in its livery, and hides some of the most relevant sensors on the ears and nose. the body They are the ones that allow you to move without the driver touching the steering wheel or step on the pedals. "As the legislation still does not allow buses to circulate without a driver, the Panda AI Bus keeps those elements and a person is always present and alert to take control in case of any problem," Chen says. This is what is known as level 4 autonomous driving.

The Panda AI Bus is already operational in four medium-sized cities in China. And, for now, it seems that both the municipal transport companies that operate them and the travelers are satisfied. "The interior is more spacious and has a system of personal entertainment in each seat", highlights a user in a promotional video. Not in vain, Deep Blue has incorporated new features such as individual screens or a curious biometric bill cancellation system.

"We see the Panda AI Bus as an interesting advance in artificial intelligence systems that will prevail in the future and, therefore, in addition to adopting it, our city wants to become a pole of development for these technologies," said Feifan Tang, Mayor of Quzhou, one of the towns where it is already operational. "China can make the development of these systems happen much faster because it has the economy of scale that allows to start projects like this," Chen added.

Although the Panda AI Bus is the first autonomous urban bus in China, some Apolong were already operating in the Asian giant, autonomous minibuses developed by Baidu that operate only in tourist areas and in short prefixed routes. These fun blue vehicles are an important advance because last year they began to be mass produced and even countries like Japan have been interested in them. "Autonomous vehicles are a revolution that nobody can stop," says Chen.

Appearance of the interior of the bus. Each seat carries a screen with entertainment options. On the right, vending machine.

Deep Blue goes even further in the development of autonomous machines and has already deployed its first robotic policemen. Yes, Robocop is no longer just a movie character. Although the real does not impose as much as fiction, it is able to identify people thanks to facial recognition systems and to judge their behavior. In addition, it is equipped with different sensors that serve to give the alarm voice if there is fire or a flood, for example. It is not the only existing model in China, and at least one of those that have developed local businesses, according to the People's Daily, is equipped with a kind of laser to enforce the law.

Still more of science fiction seems the system that Deep Blue is developing to control computers with the mind, but in a video shown by the company it is demonstrated that they have already managed to play Tetris. Yes the program ends up paying off, the company ensures that it will be able to create a silent communication system that will decode what we want to say or do by reading the brain impulses and retransmit it to another machine or human being. It is, they say, the closest we will be to telepathy.

Unlike what fingerprint readers do, the Recognition System of La Palma of the Hand This company from Shanghai uses an infrared spectrum light to penetrate 3 mm into the skin of the hand and make a map of La Palma of each user. Those who register can pay their ticket simply by putting their hand on the reader and do not need to travel with a transport ticket of any kind.

In any case, one of the most curious peculiarities of the bus is in its systems to increase the income of transport companies. Because the rates are too low to allow all citizens to access public transport, their operations are always very deficient. "Therefore, we have decided to develop two types of systems that can increase revenues," explains Chen.

On the one hand, there is the advertising that is shown on the screens. According to the information provided to RETINA by Deep Blue, "the bus has seven large screens that emit advertising constantly and collect real-time data on the behavior of users, using cameras with facial recognition and gaze tracking functions that are capable to analyze the emotional responses and the concentration of the travelers ". The company ensures that all these data "allow to personalize the ads and achieve a greater conversion in sales".

On the other hand, the Panda AI Bus is equipped with a vending machine that looks a lot like a refrigerator with a glass door like the ones in the supermarket and that, unlike those that release only the chosen product, uses an artificial vision system to determine what the user has picked up and charge him for it through Alipay, China's largest electronic payment system. "This allows us to offer a wider variety of products because we are not so constricted by space," explains Chen. Logically, the transport company takes a commission for each sale.

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