Autonomous vehicles: the future is now

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Did you think autonomous cars were the future? Well, the future is already upon us as the world’s first public trial of a robo-taxi service has just been launched by nuTonomy in Singapore.

The trial is being held in Singapore’s one-north business district and allows Singapore residents to hail a no-cost ride in a self-driving car through the company’s smartphone app. The trial will allow nuTonomy to collect and evaluate data, allowing it to refine its software ahead of the launch of a widely-available commercial robo-taxi service in Singapore in 2018.

This trial is the early fruit of nuTonomy’s R&D partnership with the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) to support the development of a commercial Automated Vehicle (AV) service in Singapore.

Singapore is betting on AV technology to supplement its existing public transport system, improve the reliability of public transport services and to address the challenge of the manpower crunch in the city-state. It also fits into its 2013 Land Transport Plan, which aims to promote public transport as the mode of choice in Singapore and ensure 75% of all journeys in peak hours are made by public transport.

AV technology already being tested in many countries 

The move comes on the back of the recent launch of self-driving shuttles which are being tested by PostBus around the city centre of Sion in Switzerland. “The mobility market is coalescing and therefore must be regarded as a whole,” commented project manager, Jürg Michel, at the time. Meanwhile, tech giant Uber has announced a deal with Volvo that will soon see self-driving vehicles hitting the streets of Pittsburgh, USA

Last week saw another flurry of ground-breaking trials, as autonomous shuttles went live in Lyon (France), South Perth (Australia) and Dubai (UAE). 

The mobility market must be regarded as a whole

Tests are also underway on fixed routes in the Netherlands (6.4km route between Ede-Wageningen station and Wageningen University & Research centre in the province of Gelderland), Greece (2.5km route in Trikala) and in China (33km between Zhengzhou City and Kaifeng City), offering up exciting possibilities for regional and inter-urban transport.

Regulatory frameworks needed

The fact that AV technology is already being put to shared use is an encouraging development. In the coming years, cities will need to put appropriate regulatory frameworks in place in order to shift mind-sets in favour of shared transport to ensure that autonomous cars do not simply equate to autonomous congestion.

UITP and its members are looking closely at the issue of AV technology; watch this space for more in the coming months. For more on automated vehicles, taxis and ride booking applications head to the Singapore International Congress & Exhibition (19-21 October 2016) where there will be two congress sessions dedicated to these topics.

See the congress programme of SITCE 2016

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