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Singapore launches trial of self-driving e-scooter

The device runs on battery power and travels at a maximum speed of 6kmh or "walking speed", researchers say. 

SINGAPORE: A four-wheel self-driving electric scooter smaller than a golf buggy might help bring Singaporeans from their homes to the nearest bus stop or train station in the future, according to researchers.

A prototype of the vehicle, now open for public trials, was unveiled on Thursday (Nov 17) at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Future Urban Mobility workshop at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The interface of the self-driving e-scooter prototype developed by SMART and NUS researchers. (Photo: Kenneth Lim)

Weighing about 50kg, the device runs on battery power and travels at a maximum speed of 6kmh - "walking speed", according to researchers. Each e-scooter costs about S$15,000 to develop, SMART said.

As a safety measure, the device has laser sensors to detect obstacles up to 2.5m in front and 10cm at the sides, allowing it to slow down and come to a stop when approaching obstacles.

It works both indoors and outdoors even in poor lighting, but SMART said the device is meant to "complement the existing transportation system", and works best in car-free areas instead of roads.

The self-driving e-scooter has laser sensors to detect obstacles up to 2.5m in front and 10cm at the sides. (Photo: SMART)

SMART added that the technology provides mobility to "people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive" including the elderly, youth and people with disabilities.

The project is currently funded by the Government's National Research Foundation under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme, but NUS Associate Professor and co-leader of the initiative Marcelo Ang told Channel NewsAsia that he hoped to eventually commercialise the project.

SCOOTING AROUND: This four-wheeler on trial is self-driving and slows down when it detects obstacles.

Posted by Channel NewsAsia on Thursday, 17 November 2016

Personal mobility devices and self-driving technology are part of the Government’s push towards a car-lite society by reducing commuting time in the first- and last-mile part of journeys.