A number of bus drivers in Shanghai can now count on alerts from an artificial intelligence (AI)-based smart assistant during long driving shifts. Chinese AI unicorn SenseTime announced on Monday that it is partnering with bus operator E-DRIVE on driver monitoring solutions, along with passenger payment system using facial scans.

To date, 38 shuttle bus lines in the Jiading and Putuo districts of Shanghai have been upgraded, with plans to roll SenseTime’s in-vehicle face recognition technology out to all E-DRIVE vehicles along more than 100 bus routes, according to a company announcement. The upgrades are low cost, a company spokesman told TechNode, as only an additional infrared camera is required.

Driver fatigue or distraction will be detected in the real time, after which a voice alert will prompt drivers to pay attention.

The China-based AI firm says it collects 200 hours of driving data totaling 10 gigabytes per day. E-DRIVE operates shuttle bus routes to and from the state-owned Shanghai International Automobile City Group (SAIC) development in Jiading and downtown destinations.

The upgrades are part of a broader plan between SenseTime and SAIC, E-DRIVE’s parent company, for the construction of an intelligent municipal transport system. SAIC is the operator of the city’s largest car manufacturing base, and its campus has tracks for self-driving automakers to run tests.

The central government has been shoring up China’s core technology development in its aim to be a world leader by 2030, particularly in AI. The Ministry of Science and Technology in September tasked SenseTime to establish China’s open platform for the “Next-Generation Artificial Intelligence on Intelligent Vision,” which includes establishing a super-computing system, and training and data structure research and development to help implement visual technologies in real economy sectors.

Prior to this, the government had asked Chinese internet titans, namely Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and iFlytek, for similar help in late 2017, according to Chinese media. The open platforms include technology solutions customized for a range of industrial sectors, including connected vehicles, city management, and health services, among others.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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