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    Oct 19, 2016

    Self-driving car, lorry collide at Biopolis Drive

    A SELF-DRIVING car and a lorry collided yesterday morning, in what is believed to be the first accident in Singapore involving an autonomous vehicle.

    No one was injured when the car knocked into a lorry while changing lanes at Biopolis Drive in one-north around 9.30am.

    The car belonged to nuTonomy, a start-up software company which was conducting trials of its self-driving vehicles in the one-north business district.

    The self-driving car, which was on a test drive, had two engineers on board and one of them was behind the wheel as a safety driver, nuTonomy said. It added that it is still investigating if the safety driver took over control of the car at the time of the crash.

    Asked how fast the car was going, nuTonomy would say only that the vehicle was travelling at a "low speed" when the accident happened.

    The Land Transport Authority, the police and nuTonomy are investigating the cause of the accident.

    A photo of the incident was uploaded onto Facebook page Singapore Taxi Driver by Michael Chong Kwan Chew.

    He wrote that the right bumper of the car was damaged while the lorry had a dent on its side.

    It led members of the Facebook group to raise questions about the safety of such cars and who should be liable.

    Autonomous vehicles have been gaining traction in Singapore.

    On Monday, the National Environment Agency and Ministry of Transport had issued a request for information for the design and development of vehicles that can autonomously clean pavements and roads, as well as collect and dispose of stored litter.

    In August, nuTonomy launched what was touted as the world's first trial of self-driving taxis on public roads in one-north.

    Despite recent accidents involving driverless cars in the United States, the two firms developing driverless cars here - nuTonomy and Britain-based Delphi Automotive Systems - had said the cars are generally safe to use.

    They have outfitted their vehicles with a range of devices, such as cameras and sensors, that give them a far wider range of vision than the average motorist.

    Park Byung Joon, an SIM University senior lecturer in urban transport management, noted that the accident did not come as a big surprise.

    "Humans don't always behave the way they should on the roads. And technology is not advanced enough to pre-empt how humans would behave," he said.

    Additional reporting by Lee Min Kok