A new project will bring self-driving buses, roving vending machines and cleaning vehicles to Wuhan’s Longlingshan Ecological Park starting on January 1

The project will include different autonomous vehicles provided by DeepBlue Technology, Dongfeng Motor and Neolix.

Beijing-based Neolix is providing Longlingshan Ecological Park with its self-driving vending machines, which will offer water and snacks to visitors. It is just one of multiple autonomous vehicles the park is getting in a new hi-tech upgrade. Photo: Bloomberg

Life has largely returned to normal in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the Covid-19 outbreak was first identified a year ago. Now residents will soon have a new way to spend their free time following a hi-tech upgrade to a local ecological park, which has been equipped with self-driving vehicles to shuttle sightseers, sell food and clean up after visitors.

The project adds 19 autonomous vehicles to Longlingshan Ecological Park, in a southwestern suburb of Wuhan. The fleet will include vehicles for cleaning and food vending, along with shuttle buses, taxis and sightseeing cars. The project was completed on Wednesday, and park visitors will be able to take advantage of the new vehicles starting January 1, according to the state-run newspaper Chutian Metropolis Daily.

Artificial intelligence start-up DeepBlue Technology, carmaker Dongfeng Motor, and autonomous delivery company Neolix Technologies, among others, all worked on different vehicles for the project.

Dongfeng’s vehicle is a tour bus for sightseers, each with two rows of seats and no driver’s cab or steering wheel. The bus can detect and avoid obstacles up to 15 metres away and is “99 per cent safe”, Dongfeng technology marketing director Guo Shengwei said, according to reports in local news media China News Agency (CNA) and Hubei Daily.

The vehicle is designed for fixed routes within an enclosed or semi-closed area, he added.

DeepBlue’s vehicles, the autonomous cleaners, have been given cuter designs, with the fronts made to look like panda faces. These vehicles carry two large sweepers in the front and a garbage box in the back. They are also able to continue working overnight, in tunnels and even through rainstorms. However, they only travel at a speed of 3km/h, taking them 2.5 hours to go through the entire 2.9 sq km park.

The vehicles also have an internal water reuse system, capable of disposing and recycling water separated from dirt and waste, CNA reported, citing DeepBlue operation and maintenance engineer Yi Wei.

Visitors who get hungry or thirsty while spending a day in the park may also choose to wave down one of the autonomous vending machines, made by Beijing-based Neolix, which will sell water and snacks.

While they are designed to stop when visitors wave their hands, the vehicles can also be hailed through a mini program on a smartphone, according to Dou Tiantian, a Neolix technician.

Visitors hoping to get a glimpse of this technology can enter the park free of charge, but the park did not say whether there would be any additional charges for taking a ride in one of the autonomous vehicles.

South China Morning Post

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