Taiwan recently unveiled its first autonomous “gharry”, a driverless version of the popular tuk-tuk shared transport vehicles commonly seen throughout Asia. Known locally as “gharries”, these three-wheeled electric tuk-tuks promise to make travel easier, greener and more affordable for Taiwanese communities
What is a Gharry?
The word “gharry” originated from British India and references small, covered carriages typically pulled by horses or mules. Today in Taiwan, gharries are three-wheeled motorized tuk-tuks that provide shared transport services, especially in urban areas and tourist destinations. Colourful gharries offer a fun and budget-friendly alternative to buses and taxis. Multiple passengers can share rides to similar destinations at low per-person costs
Introducing Autonomous Gharries
To modernize public transport while reducing environmental impact, Taiwan is testing self-driving electric gharries. Autonomous technology allows these shared vehicles to operate without a human driver, lowering costs. On-board sensors and AI navigation keep gharries and passengers safe on the road. Their zero-emissions design protects air quality and public health compared to gas tuk-tuks. Autonomous gharries could become a convenient, sustainable solution for community transport needs.
Technology Behind Autonomous Gharries
Autonomous gharries use a combination of advanced technologies to operate independently while prioritizing safety. Its core is based on a system of cameras, radar, lidar, and ultrasonic sensors that work together to provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings. Multiple types of sensors allow for redundancy and cross-checking. Cameras with computer vision software detect lane markings, traffic lights, and other visual cues to navigate roads. Lidar lasers map out objects in high definition. Radar senses things even in low visibility conditions like rain or fog. Ultrasonic sensors detect objects close to the vehicle
Onboard computers powered by AI processing chips incorporate data from all sensors into a constantly updated model of the environment. Machine learning algorithms help the system identify objects and simulate how situations may develop. This “thinking” brain enables the gharry to drive itself without human input.
Meanwhile, high-precision GPS and digital maps pinpoint the vehicle’s geographic location down to centimetres and outline road shapes and rules. Together with sensor fusion, this powers navigation along optimal, rule-abiding routes. Incremental software upgrades over time through wireless connectivity help improve abilities.
Automated emergency braking, steering, and other systems can intervene for fail-safes if anomalies occur. During the pilot program, trained safety drivers remain aboard to take control only if necessary. Once the technology fully matures, remote monitoring would assist the driverless fleet instead.
Key Features of Self-Driving Gharries
Electric motors paired with lithium-ion batteries provide emissions-free mobility.
Level 4 autonomy
Advanced sensors, cameras and computers enable fully autonomous operation without intervention.
Space for three adult passengers plus luggage for affordable shared transportation.
5G connectivity allows over-the-air software updates and remote monitoring/control.
Low floors and ramps enable easy access for passengers of all ages and abilities.
GPS and AI optimize real-time routes based on demand and traffic conditions.
Addressing Cyber Security Concerns
As all vehicles become more connected and digitized, cyber security poses crucial challenges for autonomous vehicles. Hackers targeting self-driving systems could cause physical harm, disturb transport networks, or steal valuable data.
To ensure protection, the gharry’s employ multi-level defenses. Firewalls, access controls, and encryption safeguard sensor inputs, location records, operating systems, and any passenger details collected. Frequent vulnerability scans proactively identify weaknesses.
Automated security patches deploy over the air to keep protections up-to-date without requiring physical maintenance. Dedicated security teams constantly scan for flaws and monitor system behaviour to identify and address anomalies before issues emerge.
DDoS mitigation resists denial of service attacks. Data is segmented so that even if one component is hacked, vital vehicle functions remain isolated—and digital “tamper seals” alert authorities to unauthorized access attempts in real time. Through rigorous testing and open collaboration with cybersecurity authorities, developers maximize resilience against complex and evolving digital threats. Public safety remains paramount as autonomous services expand accessibility for all.
Book a Ride with the Taiwan Self driving Gharry App
To book affordable, emission-free rides around the city or suburbs using autonomous gharries, passengers download the “Gharry” smartphone app. The app’s user-friendly interface allows users to:
Request a ride
Input pickup and drop-off addresses to summon the nearest available gharry.
Track your ride
See your gharry arriving in real-time on an interactive map.
Built-in digital wallet handles fare payment conveniently.
Rate your experience and suggest improvements.
Fares are calculated based on the distance travelled and the number of passengers to ensure good value for individuals and families. Reliable service and fair pricing aim to make gharries people’s first choice for local trips.
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Benefits of Autonomous Gharries
Self-driving electric gharries deliver many advantages that traditional taxis and buses can’t match
Zero local emissions help protect air quality and the environment.
No stairs, low floors, or ramps enable riders of all abilities.
Shared vehicle costs mean lower fares than private transport options.
Request rides 24/7 from anywhere via the intuitive app without waiting.
AI ensures on-time arrival and optimizations like avoiding traffic jams.
First/last mile connections can expand the reach of public transit networks.
Public Perceptions of Autonomous Vehicles in Taiwan
Overall, Taiwanese attitudes towards self-driving technology seem cautiously optimistic based on surveys. While many express concerns, open pilot programs may help address them:
Top worries center around reliability, hacking risks, and how autonomous vehicles interact with unpredictable human drivers and road conditions.
Once they understand autonomous capabilities and limitations, around 65% say they would feel comfortable riding in a self-driving vehicle if given the choice.
Over 75% believe autonomous transport could be safer than human-operated cars once the technology matures by reducing accidents from human error or impairment.
Convenience attracts many over 80% said they would use autonomous taxis, buses, or trains if available, especially those with disabilities.
Affordability also ranks highly 60% would regularly adopt self-driving public transport to save money versus owning private vehicles in dense cities.
Around 70% support pilot programs to demonstrate progress toward addressing current doubts and familiarizing more people hands-on. Regular transparent progress reports, open community engagement sessions, and safe early pilots seem to be an ideal way to continue gaining public trust in autonomous technology for Taiwan’s long-term transportation needs and sustainability goals. The gharry program presents a prime opportunity
Safety Statistics for self driving gharry
A 2020 study by the Rand Corporation found that AVs are estimated to be able to prevent over 90% of car crashes caused by human error. According to NHTSA data, human error is a factor in around 94% of crashes.
Data from Waymo’s autonomous miles shows their vehicles were involved in one accident for every 11,000 autonomous miles in 2020-2021. For comparison, the average accident rate for human-driven cars in the US is about once every 436 miles.
Tesla reported that their vehicles with autopilot and auto-steering engaged have a crash rate of 0.2 accidents per million miles driven based on data from January 2017 to May 2018. It is almost ten times lower than the nationwide average of about two crashes per million miles.
A 2021 study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that automated vehicles can detect and respond to other road users better than humans. AVs had a four-second advantage in braking response time compared to average human drivers in emergency braking situations.
Potential for Scaling Up
If the pilot proves successful, autonomous gharries could quickly scale up service to other major Taiwanese cities. Their modular design allows increasing fleet sizes as demand grows. Beyond Taiwan’s special municipalities, county-level cities and New Taipei present ample opportunities.
Globally, gharries offer an exportable solution for dense urban areas. Partnering with local EV companies could launch services abroad. Asia presents a sizeable addressable market first due to cultural gharry acceptance. Overall, their sustainable credentials and optimizable design make global expansion achievable in the long term.
Impact on Sustainability Goals
Taiwan aims to halve 2005 carbon emissions by 2050. Innovations like electric gharries directly support this target. By providing a zero-emissions transport alternative, gharries can reduce private vehicle usage and associated CO2
They also help meet goals for better congestion and accessibility. As a shared mobility model, gharries improve transport efficiency. Door-to-door on-demand service boosts accessibility for disabled communities. If adopted widely, autonomous gharries can decidedly contribute to Taiwan’s development as a greener, more livable nation
As a convenient, green and cost-effective shared mobility solution, Taiwan’s autonomous gharries could transform urban transportation globally if their pilot program succeeds. Their friendly, eco-friendly approach uniquely suits community travel needs