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Seoul expands self-driving bus service as new tourist attraction

by Staff

People board the Cheonggye Stream self-driving bus at a stop in downtown Seoul, as the bus starts its test operation, Sept. 26, 2022. Korea Times file

By Jung Da-hyun

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced, Wednesday, that it plans to expand the Cheonggye Stream self-driving bus service as a tourism offering, enhancing its accessibility to foreign visitors in the city.

The initiative aims to refine the system, making the self-driving bus a key tourist attraction. The city plans to showcase its technology and benefits by improving the reservation process for foreign visitors, including group bookings.

Since it went into full operation in November 2022, approximately 4,643 individuals have utilized the Cheonggye Stream self-driving bus, which follows a route from Cheonggye Stream in Jongno District, past Sewoon Arcade to Gwangjang Market.

To facilitate easier access for foreign tourists, the city government has simplified the registration process through a dedicated app. Visitors can easily book their ride not only within Korea but also from abroad.

Previously, individuals needed to download the “TAP!” app and undergo self-authentication and membership registration via domestic telecommunication services to use the self-driving bus. This process posed challenges for foreign visitors since they can’t complete Korea’s self-identification procedure.

To address this problem, the app now allows for self-identification and membership registration through text messages on smartphones, even from overseas. This will make it more convenient for tourists upon their arrival in Seoul.

Additionally, a group reservation function has been added to the app. Making group reservations is only possible by sending an email to [email protected], but the city government plans to enable it directly through the app in the latter half of the year.

Within this month, detailed information such as bus routes, operating days and fares will be provided in English at english.visitseoul.net by establishing a new section dedicated to the self-driving bus.

The city government highlighted that the project to commercialize the self-driving bus as a tourism attraction aims to introduce historical and cultural destinations while showcasing the city’s advanced autonomous driving technology to foreign visitors.

Yoon Jong-jang, a head of the Transportation Planning Bureau at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, emphasized that the commercialization of the self-driving bus is a creative policy that combines advanced technology with tourism.

“We will continue to develop operational methods and services to ensure that foreign tourists can experience the charms of the city while conveniently utilizing autonomous buses,” he said.

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