The world’s first late-night self-driving bus starts service in the wee hours of Dec. 4 in Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

By Margareth Theresia

The world’s first late-night self-driving bus has debuted on the streets of Seoul.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Dec. 3 announced the launch of regular service of the autonomous Shimya (Late Night) A21 that day from 11:30 p.m.

The city said the U.S. has had driverless taxis running on the graveyard shift but the A21 is the world’s first self-driving bus to operate late at night with public transportation functions.

The A21 will run on the central bus lane spanning 9.8 km between the subway stations of Hapjeong and Dongdaemun, both of which have many people traveling late at night due to their concentrations of colleges and large shopping areas. The stops are the same as those of regular city buses.

Two buses will run on weekdays from 11:30 p.m. to 5:10 a.m. One will begin running at Hapjeong and the other at Dongdaemun at 70-minute intervals.

The buses are free to ride but passengers must use their transportation smart cards to get transit transfer discounts.

The city said, “After a stabilization process, we plan to charge for the late-night self-driving bus in the first half of next year after conducting a stabilization process.”

The fare will be under KRW 2,500, which is the basic rate of regular late-night buses.