5G unmanned electric bus makes debut in Ayutthaya
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5G unmanned electric bus makes debut in Ayutthaya

5G unmanned electric bus makes debut in Ayutthaya
Pictured is the 5G unmanned Electric Vehicle (EV) bus that was officially launched on Wednesday. (Photo supplied)

King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) has teamed up with local companies in the telecom and autonomous vehicle fields to launch Thailand's first 5G unmanned electric bus, which will offer free rides near Ayutthaya Historical Park in Ayutthaya province.

The bus development began in 2022. It is a prototype intended to stimulate the development of driverless electric vehicles (EVs) and reduce pollution.

The 5G unmanned electric bus was launched on Wednesday in Ayutthaya, attended by Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Supamas Isarabhakdi.

Yossapong Laoonual, head of the Mobility and Vehicle Tech Research Center, said KMUTT obtained a grant worth 27 million baht from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to conduct research on a 5G unmanned bus between November 2022 and July 2024.

The research was conducted in collaboration with local tech companies, including SET-listed digital solutions provider Turnkey Communication Services (TKC), autonomous vehicle platform and robotics provider Gen Serv Co, transport service Panus Assembly and leading EV business Nex Point.

According to the project, the pilot service for free rides will initially run from Jan 31 to July 31.

After July, the bus will be transferred to KMUTT for use as it deems fit.

The autonomous electric bus with 20 seats is operated with a 5G connection via the "cellular vehicle-to-everything" platform, which enables cars to send and receive data through a mobile phone network and data centre.

People can call and reserve seats in advance, see the bus's current location and when it will arrive.

For the first phase, the bus provides service on the route around Bueng Phra Ram at Ayutthaya Historical Park from Friday to Tuesday between 9am and 5pm.

People can call for service through the 5G Auto Bus application.

KMUTT president Suvit Saetia said the automotive industry has been a core engine of the economy for more than 50 years.

The industry's new paradigm was developed with four criteria: connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles, shared mobility and EVs.

The bus operates at "level 3" of autonomous driving capability, meaning it can drive itself along a predetermined route, but still needs to have a driver behind the wheel for safety and decision-making in certain situations, said Mr Suvit.

Sayam Tiewtranon, chief executive and managing director of TKC, said the project could pave the way for commercial development.

TKC designed the software for the 5G mobile communication system.

The company also provides EV charging stations together with KMUTT, with all products from upstream to downstream produced locally.

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