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Volvo to Launch Driverless Bus Trials with Nanyang Technological University Singapore

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【Summary】The four groups participating in the pilot program include the following: Volvo, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), ABB and SMRT. Testing for the electric buses will start in 2019.

Michael Cheng    Jan 19, 2018 1:15 PM PT
Volvo to Launch Driverless Bus Trials with Nanyang Technological University Singapore

In the past few years, Singapore has attracted numerous automakers and startups in the driverless car sector. The country's lax regulatory landscape for autonomous developers, coupled with cutting-edge infrastructure, makes the location ideal for deploying pilot programs.

Volvo is the latest car manufacturer to expand its self-driving units into the area. The company intends to setup a fleet of driverless electric buses for commercial use. Before deployment in live environments, the shuttles will be tested at various locations and depots.

Autonomous and Electric

The four groups participating in the pilot program include the following: Volvo, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), ABB and SMRT. Testing for the electric buses will start in 2019.

"We are seeing fast-growing interest in both autonomous and electric vehicles in cities all over the world. Together with NTU, one of the world's leading universities of technology, we now have the possibility of testing various solutions under realistic conditions in a major city that has high ambitions for its public transport," said Håkan Agnevall, President of Volvo Buses.

Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) is currently preparing to upgrade its public transportation fleet with driverless buses by 2022.

The Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles (CETRAN) was selected as a testing facility for the Volvo 7900 electric buses. Compared to a diesel-powered unit, the shuttles consume up to 80 percent less energy. GPS and LIDAR sensors are installed on the electrified vehicles, which are used for autonomous operation.  

CETRAN Testing Facility

As mentioned earlier, the CERTRAN testing site will host one of the driverless electric buses. Researchers from NTU plan to utilize the facility to observe interactions between the shuttle and commuters. Only authorized staff are allowed in the closed track.

The second autonomous electric bus will be deployed at an SMRT station. At the depot, the unit will also undergo rigorous testing. Instead of interacting with everyday commuters, this shuttle will be trialed with local bus operators. The program teaches staff how to manage autonomous fleets, ensuring they are always charged and clean. These activities must also be completed under the supervision of a human operator, in self-driving mode.

According to NTU researchers, EVs may dominate Singapore's roads, making up over 50 percent of cars in the location by 2050.

"NTU takes pride in its strong industry connections, and this partnership with Volvo will pave the way for future mobility solutions by developing and testing autonomous buses right here on campus. These solutions will further strengthen Singapore's vision of embracing autonomous vehicle technologies and enhance public transportation," explained NTU President Professor Subra Suresh.

Charging infrastructural components will be provided by Switzerland-based ABB (ASEA Brown Boveri). The corporation partnered with Volvo in 2017 to develop fast-charging stations for electric bus fleets. The hubs are based on the OppCharge interface, which aims to be the fast-charging standard in Europe. Moreover, the stations can deliver outputs up to 450 kW.

"Industry-academic connections are key in nurturing an environment which promotes innovation, research excellence, and technological change for a better tomorrow," highlighted Suresh.

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