Driverless electric bus launched by NTU and Volvo in 'world first'

Driverless electric bus launched by NTU and Volvo in 'world first'

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Volvo Buses on Tuesday (Mar 5) launched a 12-metre autonomous electric bus in what they said was a world first. The launch comes as part of a development programme between the two, under NTU's partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to develop and conduct autonomous vehicle bus trials for fixed routes and scheduled services.

SINGAPORE: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Volvo Buses on Tuesday (Mar 5) launched a 12-metre autonomous electric bus in what they said was a world first.

The launch comes as part of a development programme between the two, under NTU's partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to develop and conduct autonomous vehicle bus trials for fixed routes and scheduled services.

The single-deck Volvo 7900 Electric bus, which can take about 80 passengers and has 36 seats, is a zero-emissions vehicle and requires 80 per cent less energy than an equivalent-sized diesel bus, according to a news release announcing the launch.

It is equipped with numerous sensors and navigation controls that are managed by an artificial intelligence (AI) system.

This includes light detection and ranging sensors, stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D and an advanced global navigation satellite system which uses multiple data sources to give location accuracy of up to 1cm.

The sensors and navigation platforms will be managed by an AI system developed by NTU researchers, which also enables the vehicle to navigate autonomously through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions.

"Ensuring maximum safety and reliability, the AI system is also protected with industry-leading cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions," added the news release.

The bus, which has undergone preliminary rounds of testing at the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU (CETRAN), will begin trials on within the university's campus before subsequently being extended to other roads.

READ: Driverless electric buses to be tested from 2019 in collaboration between NTU, Volvo

Singapore Volvo bus
President of Volvo Buses Hakan Agnevall (left), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) President Professor Subra Suresh and Land Transport Authority (LTA) Deputy Chief Executive Goh Teck Seng. (Photo: Gwyneth Teo)

A Volvo AB 7300 electric autonomous bus drives on the track of Centre of Excellence for Testing
Nanyang Technological University and Volvo launched on March 5 a 12m-long autonomous electric bus said to be a world first for its size and engine type. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

A second bus will undergo tests at a bus depot managed by SMRT in April, where it will also be tested on its ability to autonomously navigate into vehicle washing bays and park safely at charging areas.

The transport operator will also play a "key role" in determining the roadworthiness of autonomous vehicles on public roads, said the news release.

This is Volvo's first fully autonomous and electric bus in public transportation.

"We are very proud to be showcasing our electric bus featuring autonomous driving technology," said President of Volvo Buses Håkan Agnevall. "It represents a key milestone for the industry and is an important step towards our vision for a cleaner, safer and smarter city."

READ: NTU researchers' discovery makes key component of autonomous vehicles 200 times cheaper

EMB10am Mar 4 NTU First AV bus 2
A researcher keeps watch over the vehicle's performance while in the bus. The red button by his computer is an auxiliary brake as backup. (Photo: Gwyneth Teo)

This fully autonomous electric bus will "play a role in shaping the future of public transportation", said Professor Subra Suresh, NTU President.

"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 said.

The university has been a testbed for driverless vehicle technologies over the last few years.

The Volvo electric driverless bus is put through its paces at a testing track in Singapore
The Volvo electric driverless bus is put through its paces at a testing track in Singapore. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Last year, it was announced that NTU researchers made a breakthrough in the field of light detection and ranging sensors, key components in autonomous vehicles, which could see it becoming 200 times cheaper.

The university also has fully automated minibuses plying its roads, as part of a project involving SMRT Services and Dutch autonomous vehicles manufacturer 2getthere.

Source: CNA/nc(mn)

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