Blurring the Line between Robobuses and Robotaxis

At the 2021 World Internet of Things Expo held in the eastern city of Wuxi between October 23 and October 25, Chinese autonomous driving startup QCraft introduced the country’s first 5G-enabled unmanned bus supporting online-based ride-hailing functions.

The ride-hailing manner adopted by QCraft allows passengers to request pick-ups and tracking of their bus’ real-time location via a WeChat mini-program. “Users can just book a seat on the bus and check on the estimated time of arrival while staying at home, which can reduce the waiting times for them.” Long Can, brand manager of QCraft, told Pandaily. “The ride-hailing feature can also help us lower costs during non rush-hours, as we can operate these buses based on demand.”

Long said that the company aims to take people directly to the destination after they get off the existing train network in an effort to provide a solution to the “last-three-mile” challenge. He added that the ride-sharing buses will also be launched in other Chinese cities in the future.

Fully autonomous vehicles are still a shaky concept for me. It’s a hot ticket for some global car companies that may let marketing runaway with their software capacities. Still, a repeated route [with side trips] makes a lot of sense for working out the bugs. I wish QCraft folks well in their project.

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