HomeTipsTaiwan Self-Driving Gharry - Autonomous Transportation Innovation

Taiwan Self-Driving Gharry – Autonomous Transportation Innovation

The streets of Taiwan may soon have a futuristic new addition – self-driving versions of the nation’s iconic gharries. Gharries are open-air taxis that have shuttled locals and tourists alike in Taiwan for decades. Now engineers are working to upgrade these quaint vehicles into modern autonomous transports.

Taiwan Self-Driving Gharry

Self-driving gharries leverage artificial intelligence and advanced sensors to navigate roads safely. This technology could make transportation more efficient, accessible and sustainable in Taiwan. Read on to learn more about this innovative autonomous vehicle project.

What are Gharries and Their History in Taiwan?

Gharries are three-wheeled taxis that have become symbolic of Taiwanese culture. Based on designs from the Philippines, gharries first appeared in Taiwan in the 1960s.

These small taxis have open sides and a covered roof. They are legally allowed to carry up to four passengers. Gharries operate similarly to traditional cabs but have fixed routes and prices.

In the past, gharries filled a vital transportation niche in Taiwan. They served short distance trips that were too far to walk but too short for a regular taxi.

Gharries have declined in popularity with the rise of scooters, the metro system and Uber-style taxis. But they still operate in Taiwan’s major cities and tourist destinations.

Fun facts about Taiwanese gharries:

  • Number around 5,000 nationwide currently
  • Mainly serve short trips under 3 km
  • Are steered using a long tiller instead of a wheel
  • Often have colorful, decorative exterior designs
  • Provide open-air feeling missing from cars
  • Drivers sit low behind passengers on a small seat

While their usage has fallen, gharries retain nostalgic charm and uniqueness that new self-driving versions could revive.

Introducing the Self-Driving Gharry Project

Engineering researchers at Taiwan University have begun developing autonomous gharries powered by self-driving technology also know as Taiwan Self-Driving Gharry .

The project aims to update gharries for the 21st century by adding:

  • Sensors like cameras, radars and lasers to visually perceive surroundings
  • Artificial intelligence to interpret sensor data and plan routes
  • Touchscreen tablets for passengers to select destinations
  • Electric motors replacing noisy combustion engines
  • Improved safety with autonomous accident avoidance
  • More passenger room and comfort with optimized design
  • Accessibility features like ramps for wheelchair users

The team sees many advantages self-driving gharries could bring Taiwan. Benefits include increased road safety, reduced traffic and emissions, more transportation options and modernized gharries that tourists enjoy.

The university has already built and tested early generations of prototypes. They plan to partner with gharry manufacturers for larger-scale production of the autonomous models.

How Self-Driving Gharries Operate

Self-driving gharries navigate using a suite of sensors and AI similar to other driverless vehicles. Here are the key components allowing autonomous operation:

  • Cameras: Provide visual data about surroundings to identify roads, obstacles, signs etc.
  • LIDAR: Laser sensors constantly scan and measure the environment in 3D for mapping.
  • Radar: Detects location of nearby objects using radio waves even in poor visibility.
  • Ultrasonic sensors: Smaller sensors provide precise short-range object detection for safety.
  • Inertial sensors: Gyroscopes and accelerometers track vehicle speed, direction and positioning.
  • AI driving computer: An automotive-grade PC processes all data to plan routes and steer the gharry.
  • Electronic controls: Drive-by-wire systems connect the computer to electric steering, braking and acceleration.

Combining all this data, the AI system safely handles common driving tasks like staying in a lane, stopping at lights, avoiding obstacles and accounting for traffic rules.

Redundant systems provide backup if any components fail. The autonomous gharrries can even pull over and call for assistance if needed.

Benefits of Self-Driving Gharries for Taiwan

Transforming the iconic gharries into autonomous vehicles brings many advantages for Taiwan.

Increased road safety: Self-driving systems have faster reaction times and avoid dangerous errors that cause accidents with human drivers. They could significantly reduce gharry-related injuries.

More transportation options: Making gharries self-driving allows their numbers to economically scale up. It provides affordable last-mile transportation missing from metros and buses.

Accessibility: Autonomous gharries can be designed to accommodate wheelchairs, improving transportation for disabled residents.

Reduced congestion and emissions: Shared driverless gharries can take private vehicles off the road, easing congestion and pollution especially in urban areas.

Driver shortages: A lack of new gharry drivers has contributed to their decline. Self-driving models solve this issue.

Modernized appeal: Tech-savvy younger generations may appreciate updated autonomous gharries more than dated legacy versions.

Self-driving technology fixes many of the issues curbing gharry popularity while making them usable for more people.

User Experience of Riding in an Autonomous Gharry

So what would riding in a self-driving gharry as a passenger be like? Here are some of the user experience highlights:

  • Use a simple app to call a nearby autonomous gharry to your location
  • Gharries pull up curbside and lower an accessibility ramp if needed
  • Enter your destination on the interior touchscreen map
  • Sit back and enjoy the ride as the gharry navigates itself
  • Built-in street views on screens allow you to follow the route
  • Stop safely at the dropoff location and exit the gharry
  • Pay automatically through the app with stored payment information
  • Rate your gharry experience and leave feedback for the provider

The streamlined, technology-enhanced experience combines the classic open-air gharry with the ease and comfort of modern self-driving Ubers or Lyfts.

Challenges Facing Autonomous Gharry Adoption

Developing self-driving gharries is an ambitious undertaking still facing hurdles before widespread rollout.

  • Complex urban driving: Navigating Taiwan’s congested mixed-use streets is harder than controlled highways.
  • Cost: Production expenses for sensors and AI must come down further for commercial viability.
  • Legal frameworks: Regulations around autonomous vehicles are still evolving in Taiwan.
  • Infrastructure: Roads may require upgrades like electronic beacons to support driverless vehicles.
  • Public acceptance: Riders may be hesitant to trust autonomous gharry safety initially.
  • Competition: Self-driving cars may get to market faster and corner the Taiwanese AV space.

But the gharry’s smaller size and specialized use case for short trips could give it a niche advantage. Targeted deployments in closed environments like university campuses and tourist spots also offer good pilot testing opportunities.

When Can We Expect to Ride in Self-Driving Gharries?

The Taiwan University team aims to have commercially operational autonomous gharries ready in the next 3-5 years if development and testing go smoothly.

Widespread adoption will take longer as production is slowly scaled up and regulations evolve. But initial pilot tests with small gharry fleets could begin in urban areas by the mid-2020s.

Early self-driving gharries may have limited operational zones or backup drivers for safety. As the technology matures, fully autonomous models could proliferate in Taiwan by the 2030s.

Until then, enjoying a ride in a next-gen self-driving gharry while recalling their classic heritage will remain a transportation vision of the future for Taiwan. But one steadily moving closer to reality thanks to relentless innovation.


Gharries have long provided affordable short-range transportation in Taiwan. Now researchers are reinventing these iconic vehicles for the modern era by making them autonomous.

Self-driving gharry taxis use AI, sensors and electric power to offer safe automated point-to-point travel. This preserves their cultural heritage while overcoming challenges curbing gharry popularity.

If testing and development succeed, autonomous gharries could upgrade transportation in Taiwan’s busy cities in the coming years. More choice, reduced traffic and increased safety are just some of the potential benefits. Though hurdles remain, self-driving gharries are an innovation putting a beloved Taiwanese transport staple on course to safely drive itself into the future.

I am Content Writer . I write Technology , Personal Finance, banking, investment, and insurance related content for top clients including Kotak Mahindra Bank, Edelweiss, ICICI BANK and IDFC FIRST Bank. Linkedin


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