The driverless shuttle developed by Nanyang Technological University

Singapore's driverless shuttle to enter service in two years

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is testing an ultra-green driverless shuttle system to address the last mile problem.

The electric-powered bus capable of travelling at the speed of 20km/h will be covering the 2km distance between the NTU campus and the CleanTech Park of JTC Corporation – one of Singapore’s major developers.

Designed to carry up to eight passengers, the shuttle, named NAVIA, will be built in joint cooperation of NTU, JCT and Induct Technologies.

Eventually, the autonomous vehicle will be fully integrated into Singapore’s busy traffic.

“Leveraging on NTU's expertise in engineering and clean energy, we are confident that our partnership with Induct will see us explore breakthroughs in autonomous driving, wireless fast charging, and advanced battery technologies for sustainable transportation solutions,” said Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, Executive Director of NTU’s Energy Research Institute.

In the course of the project, the team plans to enhance the reliability of the powering batteries and speed up charging.

“Both concepts of a driverless transport and an efficient electric transport are at the forefront of research for personal transportation, last-mile transportation, and for logistics applications in leading automotive companies around the world,” Mhaisalkar said.

In the forefront of the team’s interest is wireless induction, better capacitors for electric vehicles and software that would be able to guide the vehicle autonomously on a predefined route.

“The planned route between JTC's CleanTech One and the NTU campus represents a real world scenario of shuttling passengers within a short range, with varying topography and pre-defined routes,” said Pierre Lefevre, Induct's CEO.

The team believes that NAVIA will become the first step towards mass integration of autonomous vehicles into Singapore’s transport system. It is believed to be particularly convenient to address the ‘first mile’ and the ‘last mile’ problem – an issue that most large cities are facing.

With companies moving their offices and facilities towards suburban areas, employees frequently find there is no convenient way of transportation from the railway or bus station to the actual work place. Bikes might offer a solution in some areas; however, not everyone is fond of cycling. Many cities are therefore looking for more sophisticated solutions to handle the problem.

“We are pleased that Induct and NTU are embarking on an electric autonomous vehicle test bed in Singapore,” said Julian Ho from the Singapore Economic Development Board that has backed the project. “Autonomous vehicles, alongside electric vehicles, represent new growth opportunities that will allow Singapore to build systems-level capabilities such as intelligent sensors and charging solutions. This test bed is also aligned with Singapore's position as a 'Living Lab' where companies can develop, test and commercialise innovative urban solutions for global markets,” he said.

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