Exclusive Interview: Taiwan's ICT to play important role in autonomous vehicles

The deputy transportation minister spoke with Taiwan News reporters about the ITS Expo, autonomous vehicles, and smart mobility applications in Taiwan

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Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), deputy minister of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications

Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), deputy minister of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The 2019 Smart City Summit & Expo opened in Taipei on March 26, and one of the highlights is an exhibition on mobility and transportation, the ITS Expo, organized by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

Following the opening ceremony, Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), deputy MOTC minister, sat down with Taiwan News and talked about the exhibition, the development of autonomous vehicles in Taiwan, and other applications of smart mobility technologies.

04. The British Office in Taipei has organized events about autonomous vehicles at the Smart City Summit & Expo for two consecutive years, which shows its emphasis on this field in relation to Taiwan. Are there any advantages of developing autonomous vehicles in Taiwan?

Taiwan’s ICT industry is highly competitive with other countries. While some car manufacturers are trying to develop autonomous vehicles on their own, others have chosen to cooperate with ICT companies. I believe Taiwan can play a very important role in working with car manufacturers to develop autonomous cars.

So far there are a number of teams doing that already in Taiwan, and I have learnt that even the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST) is trying to apply military technologies in the research of autonomous vehicles.

From MOTC’s perspective, an important aspect of developing autonomous vehicles is to reduce car accidents caused by human error. But the development of autonomous vehicles has a lot of potential from the economic perspective. Not only can we solve some problems on the road, but the ICT industry in Taiwan will also thrive as a result of this market trend.

05. What can the ministry do to provide assistance for domestic companies developing autonomous vehicles?

Taiwan’s development and policy-making of autonomous vehicles is pretty advanced compared to other nations. The first closed off autonomous vehicle testing facility in Taiwan is expected to be in service this August. And the legislation, the“Unmanned Vehicles Technology Innovative Experimentation Act,” was signed into law by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Jan 1, 2019. [Correction: the announcement of the legislation by the president is Dec. 19, 2018]

We encourage any companies or research teams that would like to make use of the field to submit their applications and plans. We also welcome overseas companies to experiment their projects in the field.

Drivers face more complex situations in the streets of Taiwan due to the vast number of scooters, something that is not commonly seen in western society. Research on this part tends also to be insufficient. If an autonomous vehicle can pass the field test in Taiwan’s streets, I believe it will work just fine in every other place in the world.

06. Can the ideas and solutions of smart transportation be applied to remote countryside or even Taiwan’s outlying islands where transportation is often characterized as insufficient and inconvenient?

Convenience of transportation and road safety are two major issues that need to be tackled when we talk about transportation-related issues in remote areas or the countryside in Taiwan.

In addition to collaborating with private companies to launch more diverse services for local residents to help them complete their last mile home, I think we can also use platforms, such as ones that provide information about types of transportation one can use or that provide real-time traffic conditions, in remote areas to improve the issues concerning convenience and safety.

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