It may be 3 a.m., but 55-year-old Ou Hsiu-chu (???) is wide awake, scribbling notes and taking photos of an orange and white vehicle the size of a mini-van easing its way down an exclusive bus lane on Xinyi Road in Taipei.
Ou is monitoring the first tests of a driverless bus carried out by Taipei authorities. The French-made vehicle only carries up to 12 passengers and operates at a tortoise-like 10 kilometers per hour, and Ou is not totally sold.
"I'm not sure about driverless buses for now because I haven't seen enough evidence that shows they are safe under less controlled circumstances," said Ou, the head of the ward where the tests were held, after taking a 5-minute test ride at the city's invitation.
The tests did demonstrate, however, the vehicle's ability to precisely detect environmental conditions on a Taipei street -- a breakthrough in Taiwan's push for smart vehicle development.
People in academia and the public and private sectors generally agree that this artificial intelligence-powered industry is worth pursuing because Taiwan is strong in information technology and has a well-established supply chain and local talent devoted to the field.
They believe that once demand is created under the central government's strategic guidance, Taiwan can become a major world player in driverless car technology, raising its profile as a knowledge-based economy to attract foreign investment, they said.
But the reality is more complicated.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel