driverless scooter

Self-driving scooter carries rider at up to 6km/h

A driverless scooter with a top speed of 6km/h that navigates autonomously along footpaths has been developed by Singapore researchers.

The one-seater, four-wheel, 50 kg vehicle can accommodate a single passenger and has laser sensors to help navigate around obstacles.

The scooter, developed by the National University of Singapore (NUS), is the city’s latest experiment with driverless vehicles as it pushes ahead with its vision of using autonomous technology to help deal with the challenges of its limited land and labour.

The scooter has undergone successful tests on the NUS campus and developers believe it can help improve mobility for all ages, cut down on the need for cars and also lower accident rates.

“I’m sure you have experienced people who just use their handphone while walking, and almost run into you ... so it would be nice if you are just sitting down and checking your emails,” said NUS Professor Marcelo Ang Jr, who led the project.

He said that the scooter would be able to work in tandem with other driverless vehicles in Singapore, where robo-taxis are being tested and trials are planned for self-driving buses.

American autonomous technology start-up nuTonomy is currently trialling driverless cars in the city and recently partnered with south-east Asia’s Uber counterpart Grab to gather more data in rides with passengers. 

Ang Jr said the scooter was meant for use on narrow pathways that larger vehicles cannot access.

Currently it takes a few seconds to calibrate a different route when it nears an obstacle - something the team is looking to improve. But users were reportedly unfazed by the brief pause.

“It goes really smoothly and travels very safely,” said student Kevin Xiangyu Hui, who tested the scooter.

The project, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, and NUS will be further tested and is not currently for sale.

A new study from Juniper Research has predicted that annual production of self-driving cars will reach 14.5 million in 2025, up from only a few thousand in 2020.

It anticipates a global installed base of more than 22 million consumer vehicles by 2025.

The research paper, Autonomous Vehicles & ADAS: Adoption, Regulation & Business Models 2016-2025, predicts that adoption of the technology is set to rocket over the next few years.

It also found that driverless vehicles will have a disruptive impact on transportation around the world and will ultimately lead to millions of professional drivers being made redundant.

Juniper predicts that city-based taxi services will be one of the key early adopters of driverless vehicles, a forecast reiterated by the CEO of smartphone taxi company Lyft who recently claimed that autonomous services were just five years away.

Research author Gareth Owen added: “The introduction of driverless cars will result in fundamental changes to the automotive world and society in general; and it is clear that the boundaries between private vehicle ownership, car sharing and rental fleets will increasingly become blurred.”

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