This early morning self-driving bus is slated for launch in Seoul from the second half of this year. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

This early morning self-driving bus is slated for launch in Seoul from the second half of this year. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

By Kim Seon Ah

The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Jan. 21 announced that it will launch an early morning self-driving bus from the second half of the year to raise convenience for commuters who need go to work earlier than others.

The move is part of a new public transportation service combining the city’s excellent policy know-how in the sector like its autonomous vehicle performance and high-quality bus services such as dispatch and route management.

The first high-tech bus will begin operation around 3:30 a.m., or 20 minutes earlier than the start times for regular buses of between 3:50 a.m. and 4 a.m. This is expected to raise the convenience of commuters needing mass transit earlier in the morning.

The service will start with blue bus No. 160, which spans 25.7 km from Dobongsan Station to Yeongdeungpo Station via the capital’s central Jongno-gu District and Mapo and Yeouido stations. The city said it placed top priority on this route after considering its traffic congestion, safety and conditions for self-driving operations.

The service will be expanded to other congested routes such as those of buses Nos. 146 and 148, which go from the Sanggye-dong neighborhood in the capital’s northern region down to the Gangnam-gu and Seocho-gu District areas in the southern area.

Deputy Seoul Mayor for City Transport Yoon Jong Jang said, “We will do all we can to improve convenience for the socially disadvantaged in an innovative way and brighten up life for the public through a cutting-edge transportation policy.”