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Monday, October 20, 2014

Driverless rides trial at Chinese and Japanese Gardens


By Saifulbahri Ismail, October 20, 2014

 Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology driverless buggy which will be deployed at Chinese and Japanese Gardens

SINGAPORE: From Thursday (Oct 23) till Nov 1, you will be able take a ride on driverless buggies at the Chinese and Japanese Gardens as part of the Smart and Connected Jurong Lake District Pilots and Trials initiative.

The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) will begin deploying two driverless vehicles to ferry the public free of charge. Those interested can book the vehicles via smartnusav.com. The buggies will be available between 8am and 2pm.

The buggies feature vehicle-to-vehicle communications that will allow each vehicle to sense where the other vehicle is. They are fitted with about S$30,000 worth of technology and can ferry up to three passengers per trip.

The vehicles have been programmed to travel to 10 designated stops around the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, with the entire route spanning nearly four kilometres.

The driverless buggies are designed with safety in mind - they have sensors that are intelligent enough to assess the environment.

Dr James Fu, a postdoctoral associate at SMART, explained: "We have varying speeds, where if there is an obstacle close by, the vehicle will slow down at a faster rate. If it is further away, it will slow down normally.

"There are also on-board safety features. If any of the sensors are not working, or the computers are not working for whatever reason, the vehicle will not move."


Researchers said the potential for such driverless vehicles is huge - one practical use is to ferry residents from their home to the MRT station. The next phase of development is to enable the buggies to intelligently go round obstacles instead of just coming to a stop. And there is more to come.
"Moving forward, we are actively researching on predicting driver behaviour and pedestrian behaviour," said Dr Marcelo H Ang Junior, acting director of the Advanced Robotic Centre at the National University of Singapore.

He elaborated: "The car can move intelligently by examining what is happening in the environment, and predicting how the moving obstacles and other vehicles are moving. It will know when it is safe to cross an inter-section, safe to enter a roundabout and when it should do a lane merging by seeing how other drivers are behaving."

The SMART-NUS team aims to fulfil 100 trips within this trial period and will consolidate feedback to improve the driverless mobility experience.