Would driverless technology address Singapore’s notorious traffic jams? Source: Wikimedia
One of Singapore’s self-driving taxis being trialled has had its first accident, although the multitude of normal crashes occurring all the time in the Lion City go unreported.
The developer nuTonomy said the car had clipped a small truck while driving at about 6kmh.
It said it was a “small prang”, causing minor damage with neither of the two engineers on board hurt.
The pilot began in August and is first of its kind in the world.
The nuTonomy spokesperson said small accidents were to be expected and that the tests were to learn from what went wrong.
NuTonomy’s six-car fleet includes Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars, equipped with software and cameras. Each has a system of lasers which monitor the car’s surroundings like radar.
NuTonomy is ahead of Uber, which last month deployed a small team of self-driving Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh.
Uber’s autonomous taxi service has “safety drivers” in the front seats of the cars because they could require human intervention in severe weather or other emergencies.
In the US, there have been several minor collisions involving Google’s self-driving cars, but only one of them has been blamed on the self-driving software. This May, a Tesla Model S running on semi-autonomous autopilot mode was involved in a fatal accident. This still compares favourably with normal driving, one of the most dangerous human pursuits.
In Singapore, the vehicles are doing the driving themselves in a limited area but drivers are there to monitor the performance in case something goes wrong. The vehicles are not taking passengers at the moment.
Many major car companies are working on driverless technology, including Tesla in Silicon Valley, Ford, Volvo, BMW and several Chinese automakers.
Google has extensively tested its driverless car and has teamed up with a number of car firms for its research.
The US-based startup nuTonomy has been developing software for self-driving cars. The company was founded in 2013 by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, specialising in robotics and driverless technology with offices in the US and Singapore.