Driverless vehicles take to the tarmac: three examples in Singapore and overseas

Driverless vehicles are inching ever closer to true roadworthiness.

It was reported today that two driverless vehicles will be tested on the tarmac in the third quarter of this year. The two golf buggies, fitted with $30,000 worth of technology, will ply the footpaths of the Chinese and Japanese gardens.

We look at some of the other driverless vehicles which have been launched here and overseas.

1. The Nanyang Technological University was the first to launch a trial for driverless vehicles in Singapore. In August last year, it started road-testing a driverless shuttle in partnership with JTC Corporation and Induct Technologies.

The shuttle, named NAVIA, can carry eight passengers and go up to 20.1kmh.  It runs on electric batteries and will follow a pre-programed route between NTU and JTC's CleanTech Park.

The vehicle is also a testbed for research by the Energy Research Institute @NTU, which will be developing and testing new charging technologies for it.

Still in its R&D phase, the shuttle has yet to run as a regular service.  

2. The National University of Singapore, in collaboration with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, launched its own Singapore-made car in January this year.

Named the Shared Computer Operated Transport (Scot), the vehicle is actually a Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car which the researchers retrofitted at a cost of $30,000. It seats four and can reach a top speed of 130kmh.

It is equipped with laser sensors which have a 30m range to help it avoid obstacles. It also has remote sensing technology that allows the vehicle to navigate without using the Global Positioning System.

This is the successor to the driverless golf buggies which will be road-tested later this year.

3. Of all the companies developing driverless vehicle technologies, perhaps the most oddball is Google. On reflection however, the search engine company has related technologies it can put to good use in a driverless vehicle. Google maps and street view, anyone?

The company launched 100 vehicles at its California headquarters on May 27. The cute little two-seater has only a panic button and a start button, no steering wheel or pedals. Its top speed is limited to 25mph (40kmph).

Watch a video of the car going on a test drive with people on YouTube.

An earlier version of this report mis-stated the name of the Energy Research Institute @NTU as the Energy Research Unit @NTU. It also noted that the Scot vehicle is a predecessor to the driverless buggies. The Scot is a successor to the driverless buggies. We are sorry for the errors.