Large self-driving electric buses on Dec. 22 from 2 p.m. began regular service near the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Two self-driving electric buses on Dec. 22 were launched around the former presidential compound of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said both large autonomous vehicles from 2 p.m. started their regular run of a 2.6-km circuit around Cheong Wa Dae.

With a capacity of 49 passengers, each bus is a remodeled version of Hyundai Motor's intra-city bus Elec City.

This is the nation's first regular service of a large self-driving electric bus that is the size of a regular city bus.

The five bus stops are Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Hyoja-ro Street ipgu or entrance), National Palace Museum of Korea (Yeongchumun Gate), Cheong Wa Dae, Chunchumun Gate and Gyeongbokgung Palace (National Folk Museum of Korea).

For the convenience of those using the subway to visit Cheong Wa Dae, a bus stop exclusively for the self-driving buses was set up at the entrance to Hyoja-ro (National Palace Museum of Korea) near Exit 4 of Gyeongbokgung Station.  

The buses run weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 30-minute intervals from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 15-minute intervals after 10 a.m. The service is closed for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. and on weekends and holidays.

The fare is free but only if a passenger uses a public transportation card when boarding.

The city government conducted test runs after selecting last month a consortium of Seoul National University and Smart Your Mobility to operate the service through an open competition. 

Baek Ho, deputy mayor of City Transportation Office at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, said, "With the nation's first case of a large self-driving electric bus that is the size of a city bus, self-driving cars will develop into a regular means of public transportation," adding, "We hope that visitors to Cheong Wa Dae who experience the self-driving buses foster another downtown attraction."