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Volvo to test autonomous electric buses in Singapore

Volvo’s autonomous bus will be tested at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University

As part of Singapore’s efforts to deploy autonomous vehicles (AVs) to enhance its public transport system, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has partnered up with the Volvo Group. This is Volvo’s first opportunity to develop and test autonomous and electric city buses.

Singapore may be the second smallest country in Asia, but it is a leading nation in the region when it comes to technological development. It is investing heavily in automation and electro mobility to increase the use of public transport and to make the systems safer and more efficient.

Currently, 67% of journeys during peak hours are made on public transport, and the goal is to increase this to 75% by 2030. Given the constraints which Singapore faces in land and labour, the country is focusing on automation to achieve its objective.

Head of Volvo Buses Singapore Manish Sahi collaborated with NTU to understand the value of having Volvo on board as a major partner in the autonomous electric bus project.

The next step is to demonstrate how the buses operate and to carry out more research, together with NTU, into how to prepare the buses for use on public roads. The fact that the buses are not only autonomous but also electric plays an important role in being more environmentally friendly.

The new technology allows public transport to be planned more effectively, which will lead to a reduction in congestion and a quieter, greener and safer transport system.

“The developments in the automated technology are helping progress towards Singapore’s vision of deploying AV technology for public transport,” explains Manish.

“But the technology is not yet ready to be commercialised. We need to carry out further tests to show that it is safe for passengers to use the buses on public roads.”

The project leader, Joakim Jonsson, drove the bus on-board the boat to Singapore and the test track there himself. “Volvo is currently only allowed to test self-driving vehicles on private roads” explains Joakim.

In December 2018, testing began within an enclosed test track which is the size of two football pitches and has stage scenery to represent buildings. Tropical rain storms will be simulated, among other things, to mimic the conditions that the autonomous electric buses will have to operate in.

In addition to the two buses, Volvo has also supplied an autonomous platform which will be developed on site. The buses will not only have to operate autonomously, but must also be able to travel to a depot and recharge their batteries independently.

“Singapore is near the top of the rankings for the acceptance of automated technology, according to a study carried out by KPMG, but it is much lower down the scale when it comes to manufacturing,” explained Joakim. By contrast, the same study showed that Sweden has a strong manufacturing sector. “That makes us the perfect match,” says Joakim with a smile.

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