The nation’s first closed testing ground for self-driving vehicles is to become operational in the first quarter of next year, the Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday, as its subsidiary, the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARL), and Acer Inc signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote field tests.
The MOU makes Acer the NARL’s first industrial partner at the testing ground for autonomous vehicles, the ministry said.
It is estimated that more than 30 percent of vehicles used by 2030 are to be self-driving cars, whose operations and safety need careful testing beforehand, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said.
The government has made many preparations to catch up with the global trend, including the legislature’s passage of the Act for Uncrewed Vehicle Technology Innovations and Experiments (無人載具科技創新實驗條例) on Nov. 30, he said.
The infrastructure of the testing ground — part of Tainan’s Shalun Green Energy Science City — is to be ready next month and the data collected through field tests would be invaluable, he said.
The testing ground covers about 1.75 hectares and features 13 simulated scenarios, including varied road surfaces, T-junctions, level crossings and smart bus shelters, through which uncrewed cars would be directed, NARL Planning and Promotion Office associate researcher Chang Lung-yao (張龍耀) said.
Additional simulations, such as elevated roads and scenarios with heavy rain and flooding would be set up, he said, adding that the testing environments are being configured in line with the European New Car Assessment Program’s latest safety standards.
As most vehicle-related firms in Taiwan manufacture vehicle components, the NARL would make a model car available to test components, he said.
Acer in September launched the nation’s first self-driving car model, which it developed along with Yulon Motor Co.
Earlier this month, Acer also announced a plan to collaborate with National Yang-Ming University, anticipating that the school’s medical resources could facilitate the development of self-driving technologies.
To speed up the industrial transformation of Taiwan, the government should put more effort into developing a smart city infrastructure, in which self-driving cars would be a key element, Acer founder Stan Shih (施振榮) said, adding that the company has set up an office near the testing ground.
Domestic firms are likely to play an essential role in the autonomous vehicle industry, especially as suppliers of components and subsystems, he said, urging the government to expand domestic demand to increase sales.
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