Singapore to become big early adopter of driverless car tech

Driverless car legislation is difficult, because you have to worry about appeasing everyone. The insurers need to not be screwed over by being held liable for everything automated vehicles do and drivers don’t want to feel like they can’t take control as and when they need it. Likewise the politicians don’t want to be held responsible when something goes wrong. However, in Singapore law making is a little different than elsewhere in the world, so pushing through legislation that allows the tech is far easier. It’s also a technologically forward thinking country, which is why it looks like it may end up championing automated car technology before many others.

Singapore has already shown a liking of the technology, by introducing the first driverless transportation system. It’s a shuttle platform called Navia, that can carry up to eight passengers on pre-programmed routes around the Nanyang Technological University at speeds of up to 20 kilometres per hour. Manufactured by Induct technologies in partnership with both the University and industrial developer JTC, the little shuttles are on a trial run for the next two years and are expected to help improve the automated technology, as well as electrical vehicle battery life.

But Navia isn’t the only driverless vehicle in Singapore. Over at the University of Singapore, there’s another program that was launched earlier this yea, known as the Shared Computer Operated Transport, or SCOT for short. It however isn’t purpose built, but is based off of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car and retrofitted with a system that allows it to drive pre-programmed routes. The SCOT is able to carry four passengers at a time, but goes far faster, reaching speeds up to 130 kilometres per hour. It has a system of lasers and radar technology to help it avoid obstacles and can even tell where it is without GPS connectivity, so weather or other issues won’t affect its route tracking capabilities.


To help push this technology forward and make sure it’s regulated properly, Singapore has created a new government committee. The group of appointed individuals will consider options for driverless technology moving forward and will help champion it in local areas, as well as considering any potential safety precautions that need to be taken. Driverless buses and shared autonomous vehicles have already been proposed.

Josephine Teo, current senior minister for transport will head up the committee. She said at the launch of the new government watchdog, that driverless technology had  “the potential to transform our lives,” and that her group of ministers will take special care to make sure that it’s implemented as quickly and as safely as possible. 

However, she did add that the technology’s full acceptance and saturation in society would take another 10-15 years to reach fruition. “In upcoming new town developments, we can study ideas such as dual-layered decks just within the town centre, with AV feeder services plying one of the decks, or in dedicated lanes,” she said. Teo also suggested that as well as eventually offering safer transport options, automated vehicles could offer bit boosts to productivity for some businesses, by working around the clock and without the need for many financial considerations that employees require. 

There is concern from some quarters however, that automated vehicles could spell an end for occupations like lorry and taxi drivers, which is a real possibility.

Image Source: NTU

[Thanks HinduBusiness, StraitsTimes]

    Jon Martindale

    Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.

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