Self-driving bus. Image credit: Yutong.

A new development in China may take Sunday drivers to a whole new level. Meet the self-driving bus.

Recently, Yutong, a bus manufacturer that is based in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, took passengers on rather novel bus ride, one that didn't involve a driver. In a video released earlier this week, you can see the completely autonomous bus as it rolls across a stretch of 32 kilometers (20 miles).

In the press release, the company notes that the bus wasn't just driving along aimlessly. Rather, it completed a series of tasks in order to reach its destination. All in all, it went through 26 traffic lights, completed a number of lane changes, successfully passed other vehicles on the road, and it did so without any interference from a human driver.

The work comes from researchers based at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, a state-affiliated research institution; however, don't start thinking about being led around the countryside by a robotic driver just yet. The development is in its early stages and has yet to hit the commercial market.

But other locations have tested similar designs before. CityMobile2 recently tested an electric, self-driving bus; however, this demonstration, wasn't as advanced or truly ready for application. The CityMobile2 is based in Belgium and hopes to create viable models for European consumption. Yutong notes that, in this run, the bus arrived at its destination with its highest speed reaching just over 40 mph (68 km/h). It may seem somewhat worrisome that a robot is driving a enormous vehicle around at such speeds; however, according to some experts, the much improved active safety standard is, in fact, the biggest advantage of unmanned vehicles.

Ultimately, these driverless busses may eliminate a number of traffic accidents, as mechanical apparatus can respond faster than humans.

The bus come equipped with an intelligence sensing system, which has a laser radar and cameras on four sides of the vehicle. Thus, as the company notes, "it forms a panoramic view and suits driving needs on various complex road conditions." Its laser radar is ultimately able to monitor, with stunning accuracy, the relative speed and distance against other moving vehicles. In response to this information, the vehicle’s driving system sends out orders for acceleration and deceleration.

I, for one, welcome our new robot-bus overlords.

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