S’pore eyes driverless buses

CleanTech Park in Singapore is pioneering driverless technology. Source: Wikimedia

Singapore is set to trial two 12-metre, full-size driverless buses in Jurong West near the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) conducted by the Land Transport Authority and the university’s Energy Research Institute, under an agreement signed at the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition.

The buses will reportedly be capable of carrying up to 80 people between NTU and the adjacent “eco-business” CleanTech Park less than 2km away. There is also a suggestion that the trial could be extended to a longer, circular route of around 8km while recharging at the bus terminus and the bus stops with charging masts.

The Mercedes-Benz’s Future Bus serviced a 17km route in Amsterdam in June. NTU and CleanTech Park have already hosted a driverless Navia shuttle and recently nuTonomy’s self-driving taxis began trials in the Lion City.

“Current efforts worldwide have been focused on cars,” NTU’s vice president of research Professor Lam Khin Yong was quoted saying by Channel NewsAsia. “So this autonomous bus trial is the first of its kind in Singapore that will aim to improve road safety, reduce vehicle congestion, alleviate pollution and address manpower challenges.”

In more conventional transport news, Singapore Airlines has launched a daily Singapore-San Francisco service using Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

With advanced technology, the A350-900 features higher ceilings, larger windows, an extra wide body and lighting designed to cut jet-lag.

They can carry 253 passengers with 42 in business class, 24 in premium economy and 187 standard economy seats. The airline claims its business-class seats are the widest available.

The flight time is over 17 hours, depending winds and weather.

Singapore Airlines has six A350-900 in its fleet with another 61 on order, including seven of the ultra-long-range A350-900ULR due to arrive during 2018. The aircraft is set to link the city-state with New York and Los Angeles.

Singapore Airlines also serves Los Angeles via Seoul and Tokyo, Houston via Moscow although this is soon to change to Manchester, and New York via Frankfurt.