Inchcape-funded autonomous shuttle trials kick off in Singapore

Fully autonomous bus will run at NUS Kent Ridge, passenger rides begin in Q3 2019

Photos: ComfortDelGro, Inchcape, NUS

SINGAPORE  – The latest autonomous vehicle (AV) trial in Singapore will be conducted at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Kent Ridge campus.

The trial is funded by multinational automotive distributor Inchcape Plc, the parent company of Borneo Motors, which distributes Hino, Lexus, Suzuki, and Toyota vehicles in Singapore.

Does that mean autonomous Toyotas on the road here soon? Not quite, it seems more like a techno-strategic move from Inchcape. But having a foot in the AV process makes things easier in the future, so it’s not totally out of the question, though it’s more likely this will apply to shuttles and public transport (Hino makes buses after all). 

Ms Jasmmine Wong, the managing director of Inchcape, told CarBuyer: “As a leading automotive distributor, we are constantly learning, innovating and staying abreast on future mobility developments and this initiative allows us to remain at the forefront of autonomous mobility solutions.”

Besides backing the project, Inchcape also imported the vehicle into Singapore and provided technical expertise for the homologation process.

The AV is the EZ10, an autonomous electric bus built by French AV manufacturer Easymile. At four-metres long, the AV is bi-directional, has a lithium ion battery pack of 30.75kWh capacity, and can carry up to 11 passengers at a time. The usual hardware such as LIDAR, inertial measurement units, cameras and more, enable autonomous driving.

It’s aimed at short-distance ferrying between locations, and Easymile claims it’s ‘the most deployed self-driving shuttle in the world’ as it is being operated in more than 26 countries.

The shuttle, which is named NUSmart Shuttle, will be run by ComfortDelgro Bus Pte Ltd. Running a 1.6-kilometre route between Heng Mui Keng Terrace and Business Link, the first one-and-a-half months will see it deployed on a road test, travelling under 15km/h to collect road and route date, before commencing the actual trials. After that more testing is required before actual passenger journeys begin in the third quarter of 2019.

While Singapore is well-known for discouraging private vehicle ownership, it’s been very supportive of AVs to date, presumably because they can help meet transport needs in a heavily urbanised and populated landscape.

There are already several testing programmes for autonomous vehicles here including passenger vehicles, commercial and utility vehicles such as roadsweepers. Singapore is also one of the first in the world to take steps towards making a new standard for autonomous vehicles, named TR68, in January this year.

But what do AV trials mean for Regular Joe CarBuyers in Singapore – does it mean your futuristic self-driving luxury pod is on its way soon?

intel autonomous driving day 2017

READ MORE: Intel and Delphi want AV taxis on the road by 2020, here’s how 

It is, but not quite yet. These are the baby steps towards AVs that can truly drive themselves everywhere,
i.e. Level 4 and 5 autonomy. The best a modern car can do is Level 3, such as the Audi A8, but as TR68 proves, it’s more about whether cars are allowed to drive themselves rather than if they can.

about the author

Derryn Wong
Has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. Is particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.