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Look, ma, no driver behind wheel of car

FUTURISTIC: This autonomous electric shuttle, Navia, is manufactured by France's Induct Technologies, in partnership with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and JTC Corporation, with the support of the Economic Development Board.


    Jun 04, 2014

    Look, ma, no driver behind wheel of car

    DON'T be surprised if you soon spot a car going past you in Jurong without a driver behind the wheel.

    By the end of this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will test out a fleet of driverless buggies in the Jurong Lake District.

    The tests will be conducted as part of an ongoing trial by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, already in place at the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus.

    The research centre is in talks with Sentosa on a possible trial for driverless vehicles there.

    Such self-driving vehicles have already taken off in other parts of the world, notably in several states in the United States, such as Nevada and California.

    Last week, Google launched the first prototype of its own driverless car.

    Speaking to reporters at the World Cities Summit yesterday, LTA's deputy chief executive, Chua Chong Kheng, said that such technology would come with "enormous potential" for providing first- and last-mile connections to commuters in Singapore.

    It could also be used to power public transport, such as buses - a move which could help alleviate the country's heavy reliance on manpower, said Mr Chua.

    Having autonomous cars here, he added, would mean optimising the use of road space, as well as better road safety for commuters.

    "It reduces the potential of drivers getting into accidents due to fatigue or distractions... and takes the stress off them."

    The elderly and the less mobile, too, will have "more flexibility in terms of mobility".

    But the challenge remains in deploying the system of driverless cars in "the real world", said Mr Chua, particularly as the safety of commuters is at stake.

    "A lot of the testing has been done offline, or in a limited and constrained manner, but the application of the technology in the live world is something that we need to look at."

    He said that the issue of liability in a road accident involving autonomous vehicles is a challenge in itself.

    "Does the responsibility fall on the carmaker, or the car owner? Or does it fall on the technology supplier? And does the passenger have the means to seek legal recourse against any of them?

    "This is something we need to study carefully before we can fully deploy the autonomous vehicle system."

    Other issues include licensing and insurance.

    All the same, Mr Chua said that Singapore is "very keen" on partnering interested parties in testing out such systems.

    "If it comes through, (driverless cars) will bring Singapore a new form of transport that will complement what we already have today."