Singapore – Volvo Buses and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) recently launched the world’s first autonomous electric bus in Singapore.
As part of a development programme between the two organisations, the 12-metre self-driving bus was launched on March 5, in line with the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) initiative in developing and conducting autonomous bus trials for fixed routes and scheduled services.
The LTA considers this to be “an important milestone” in the journey to adopt more autonomous buses in public transport and to see their performance in practical situations.
In a report by CNA, the autonomous bus was featured with a steering wheel that turns on its own while an engineer sits on the driver’s seat to ensure safety measures and another researcher monitors the bus movements, both with emergency brakes within reach.
The bus experienced a simulation of a pedestrian crossing and stopped perfectly on its own.
According to the press release, the bus had already undergone rigorous testing at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous (CETRAN).
The project aims to study how autonomous buses could be used in fixed and shared-routes services through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions.
“NTU’s contribution is to develop the AI, the software, the sensors, the cyber-security, and the data analytics capabilities for this,” said Professor Subra Suresh, President of NTU. The university is working closely with LTA and SMRT to roll out the buses first within NTU vicinity and eventually to broader communities after meeting certain criteria.
“This research project not only involves cutting-edge science, technology and AI but also an excellent example of close partnership among academia, industry and Government agencies in translating basic research into products and services for the benefit of Singapore and beyond,” he added.
President of Volvo Buses Håkan Agnevall said that the R&D project is taking important steps in technology “to bring safer public transport, a more smooth public transport, and a more efficient public transport.” He added that the 12-metre, full-electric, autonomous bus is a “world’s first” put in operation.
The bus battery only takes six minutes to recharge, the same amount of time it takes to switch drivers at bus depots.
Some of the AI installed in the bus include stereo-vision cameras that capture 3D images, an advanced global navigation satellite system to provide up to 1cm accuracy levels in location, and light detection and ranging sensors. NTU has also prepared cybersecurity measures against unwarranted breaches.
Equipped with 36 seats and has a capacity of 80 passengers, a second autonomous bus is set for further trials in its self-parking and charging abilities at an SMRT depot in April.