Self-Driving Car Crash In Singapore Puts Autonomous Bus Safety First

Thousands of people were killed in car crashes yesterday, but they don’t seem to merit the media attention that immediately begins when a self-driving vehicle is involved in even the smallest of fender benders. Self-driving cars will be the future, but it seems we are in no rush to get there proving quite clearly you’ve never been a passenger in my 70-year-old mother’s car.

Self-Driving Cars Singapore
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Self-driving car crash prompts conversation about automated buses/trains in Singapore

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has recently announced that it sees itself as the perfect agency to oversee the testing and production of self-driving buses as well as building and AI based monitoring system for country’s rail transportation service that would look to identify problems in real-time and make fixes without disrupting schedules and service.

To the self-driving buses, the LTA plans to work with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to develop two 12-meter long prototypes to kick-start work on the field. The two entities began formally working together years ago but will run the project out of the LTA-NTU Transport Research Centre which was established late last year for the two to share a common location to work more effectively together.

The two electric, self-driving buses will be tested by the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) once they have been manufacturing with a promise to put safety first.

The two intent to see the buses for travel within the limits of cities but also between cities, and like all self-driving transportation will be fitted with many sensors necessary to facilitate the autonomous nature of the buses.

Whatever your feeling on autonomous vehicles at present, it’s simply a matter of time before they become a reality and if you think much more than a decade will be necessary to make them an everyday part of life in developed nations I can’t help but think you’re mistaken.

Uber is already testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh though they are still “manned” by both a driver ready to take the wheel and a technician in the front passenger’s seat. Google has been testing its fleet of self-driving cars for nearly a decade, and Baidu announced last month that it had begun its testing in California.

Lam Khin Yong, NTU’s chief of staff and vice president of research said this week that “Current efforts worldwide have been focused on cars 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.”

While the announcement was planned for some time, the timing of it was not terrifically ideal given a crash by a car from startup nuTonomy on Tuesday when the self-driving vehicle hit a truck while traveling at a low speed and apparently the engineer behind the wheel of the car didn’t take control until it was too late. No one was injured in the accident according to the police as well as a spokesperson for nuTonomy.

Self-driving cars operated by numerous companies around the world have gotten into a host of accidents, but the majority of these accidents were the simple result of a manned automobile crashing into them both mitigating the fear that many have for the technology and providing the bonus of showing that humans are far from fallible when operating motor vehicles.