Should you be at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) sometime soon, and wish to take the shuttle bus to JTC Corporation's CleanTech Park, you might find yourself in a vehicle that drives itself. Plans call for just such an autonomous shuttle to start running the 2-km (1.2-mile) route, as a real-world test of driverless public transportation.
The electric 8-passenger vehicle is a model already being made by France’s Induct Technology, and is known as the Navia.
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Passengers get on board at a designated stop, and select their destination stop on a touchscreen display of the route. The vehicle then heads out onto public roads at a maximum speed of 12.5 mph (20 km/h). It uses four LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) units, along with stereoscopic optical cameras, to generate a real-time 3D depth map of its surroundings. This allows it to avoid obstacles, stay in its lane, and generally keep from getting into trouble.
Once it’s completed its route, the shuttle automatically heads to its wireless fast charging station. It doesn’t require any rails, overhead lines, or other changes to the roads.
A Navia at Switzerland's EPFL campus, where the vehicle is already in use (Photo: Induct Technology)
The project partners (NTU, JTC and Induct) hope that the Navia or something like it could be an effective form of last-mile transportation, ferrying commuters between transit hubs such as train stations, and their homes or workplaces.
The Navia can be seen in use in the video below.