BANGKOK - Whisper it quietly, but Thailand’s ornate, smoke-belching, street hogging tuk-tuks are heading up a leading-edge technology trial.
Beginning in November, a public-private partnership will test the nation’s first self-driving electric tuk-tuk .
Start-up Airovr, investor Siri Ventures and the Thai government will run the months long trial inside a gated Bangkok community. If successful the technology could be transferred into bigger vehicles.
“The programme can build confidence among regulators and users that these vehicles can be used on public roads,” said Ekkarut Viyanit, principal researcher for the government’s National Science and Technology Development Agency. “This will accelerate acceptance of the technology in Thailand.”
Amares Chumsai Na Ayudhya, founder of Bangkok-based Airovr, told Bloomberg that the tuk-tuk was chosen as a test vehicle because the three-wheeler is more energy-efficient than a car, requires fewer parts, is cheaper and is more suitable for the country’s hot weather.
Bloomberg said the Airovr model has a minimalist design, with screens depicting speed and how much electricity is in the tank. The 3D mapping system on the roof resembles police sirens.