ComfortDelGro to pilot 2 electric driverless taxis in 2023

ComfortDelGro, partnering with developer Mobileye, hopes to become a forerunner in operating autonomous vehicles. PHOTO: COMFORTDELGRO

SINGAPORE - ComfortDelGro will pilot two electric self-driving cabs in the first half of next year, as it seeks to prepare itself for a possible autonomous vehicle (AV) future, the taxi giant announced on Wednesday (March 30).

It has set up a new $30 million AV centre of excellence to facilitate this in hopes of becoming a forerunner in operating AVs, partnering Mobileye, which develops driverless technology. 

The pair want to also build a technology platform that will allow the operator to manage an entire fleet of AVs, if and when it becomes possible for driverless taxis to take to the roads.

ComfortDelGro chairman Lim Jit Poh said in a statement: "The objective of this investment is not for us to get involved in the actual development of AV technology but to invest and leverage on AVs to develop driverless operational procedures and trial new mobility services.

"This is an investment in our future... we believe that AV technology will emerge as the main driving force in time to come."

AV technology is still in its nascent stages, but those in the industry have said it could mature any time between the next 10 and 50 years.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority has already begun to plan for a driverless city and has thought about segregating AV lanes or creating multiple levels of roads so that AVs can be separated from the rest of traffic and be tested in real-world conditions.

ComfortDelGro's partner, Mobileye, has been developing autonomous driving solutions over the last two decades and has tested its technology in France, Germany, Israel, Japan and the United States.

Its vice-president of mobility-as-a-service Johann Jungwirth said the venture will give the company the opportunity to prove that its solution works in Singapore.

"We want to enable autonomous vehicles at scale, globally, and efforts such as the AV centre of excellence mark an important step towards delivering safer, more accessible and more convenient mobility for millions of people," he said.

The first driverless taxi was deployed on Singapore's roads in 2016 by developer NuTonomy and Grab in the one-north business district.

They had hoped for a full launch of the service in 2018, but human-like autonomous driving remains beyond today's technology. Researchers are still struggling with how to program AVs so that they can predict human behaviour while overtaking vehicles or changing lanes.

Over 50 driverless vehicles of various transport modes, including buses, shuttles and road sweepers have been approved for trials on Singapore's roads and public paths in the past five years.

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