Driverless car hits lorry during test drive

The self-driving car was changing lanes in Biopolis Drive at one-north yesterday when it knocked into the lorry. The car belongs to nuTonomy, which is conducting trials of its autonomous vehicles in the one-north area. The start-up said the car was t
The self-driving car was changing lanes in Biopolis Drive at one-north yesterday when it knocked into the lorry. The car belongs to nuTonomy, which is conducting trials of its autonomous vehicles in the one-north area. The start-up said the car was travelling at a "low speed" at the time of the accident.PHOTO: SINGAPORE TAXI DRIVER/ FACEBOOK

No one hurt; police, LTA probing cause of accident, believed to be first here involving such a vehicle

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 the lorry while changing lanes in Biopolis Drive at one-north at around 9.30am.

The car belongs to nuTonomy, a start-up software company that is 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 it was travelling at a "low speed" when the accident happened.

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

A photo of the incident was uploaded onto Facebook page Singapore Taxi Driver by Mr 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 in such a case.

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. The trial initially covered a 6km stretch in the area, but this was doubled last month to 12km to include destinations such as Fusionopolis.

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.

In February, a Google self-driving car collided with a bus in California. In May, the driver of a Tesla Model S sedan, with the autopilot mode engaged, was killed when it crashed into a tractor trailer in Florida.

Dr Park Byung Joon, an SIM University senior lecturer in urban transport management, said the accidents do not come as a 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.

He added that Singapore may be too optimistic in thinking autonomous vehicles will soon be a common sight on the roads. "It's at least a decade or two away."

•Additional reporting by Lee Min Kok

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Driverless car hits lorry during test drive'. Print Edition | Subscribe