CHANGSHA, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The world's first trackless Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit (ART) system has started trial operation in central China's Hunan Province.
The trial operation, which launched Tuesday in the city of Zhuzhou, is scheduled to last three months, according to Feng Jianghua, chief engineer of the system developer, the research arm of Chinese railcar maker CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., Ltd.
The smart electric vehicle, seen as a crossover between a bus, train and tram, runs on rubber tires and follows double-dashed white lines painted on the road, instead of conventional rail tracks.
Sensors on the vehicle can detect the dimensions of the road and send travel information back, which provides the basis for developing it into a driverless vehicle in the future.
The three-carriage vehicle is 32 meters long, but has a small turning circle, equivalent of the turning radius of a 12-meter bus, and can carry over 300 passengers.
Currently it travels on a 3.1-km route with four stations, and a further 9-km route is planned.
The developer said the electric vehicle is cheaper and more eco-friendly than traditional vehicles. The new transit system costs just one-fifth of a tram system as it does not need tracks. Ten minutes of charge can power the vehicle to travel for 25 kilometers.
The city government granted the vehicle an exclusive lane on the road and right of way at intersections.
Moreover, the city's traffic system will adjust its signal light after sensing the ART 100 meters ahead of the traffic lights to ensure that the smart vehicle passes through the intersection safely and quickly and runs on schedule.
The ART system was unveiled last June and started a test run in October.
Delegations from over 20 overseas cities have visited the project, its developer said.
The ART was nominated for an award in the "Beazley Designs of the Year 2017," which was organized by London's Design Museum to celebrate the world's most innovative design ideas.