First AI bus debuts in Shanghai with customized services

By Ji Yuqiao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/17 21:23:40

China's first AI custom bus. Photo: Courtesy of Alipay

China's first AI custom bus debuted in Shanghai on Tuesday. Its services include customized routes, making the bus as convenient as a cab, only much cheaper, according to the makers.

Passengers book online. The 40-seat bus waits at the appointed place between a fixed start and finish. Then the bus takes passengers where they want. 

The AI bus, which was researched by Alipay, can save 30 percent on commuting time over a traditional bus and a one-way ticket is 16 yuan ($2.3).

Seeking to avoid too many passengers on one vehicle, the bus boasts a data platform that monitors the number of buses on the road, the amount and flow of passengers in real time with AI technology. 

The bus has more than 100 routes in the city designed by AI analysis technology, according to an Alipay spokesperson. 

Bus companies can plan routes according to a growing database on passengers' needs, said the staff member, who only gave her surname as Wang.

The 40 seats can be 80 percent occupied at morning peak rush hour, Wang said. 

Custom buses have long existed, but AI buses that analyze real-time data from mobile map platforms to screen passengers' travel demands is new, she said.

Such AI buses might cover the whole country in the next three years.

A 25-year-old Shanghai white collar worker told the Global Times on Tuesday that if she had the opportunity, she would choose the bus for her daily commute. 

"It will save time and it's cheaper than taxis. I was told the bus can even keep away from traffic jams through AI: much better than traditional buses," said the woman, who only gave the surname of Li. 

A pregnant caller to Radio Shanghai said she too preferred the new AI bus. 

"Through booking tickets online, I can have my own seat every day during the commute. It is convenient and safe for me," she told the station.

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