Sept. 17 - A collaboration between French company Induct and a Singapore university aims to replace conventional shuttle buses with a driverless, electric alternative. The team are currently testing the vehicle on a two kilometre test route virtually devoid of other traffic, but hope eventually to increase its range. Rob Muir has more.
It could be the future of clean, efficient public transportation. Called NAVIA, the electric powered, self driving shuttle is a collaboration between the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and French company Induct, represented by marketing director Max Lefevre. SOUNDBITE) (English) MAX LEFEVRE - INDUCT MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR, SAYING: "We studied mobility, in cities, in campuses, and we realised that the shuttle systems, most of them are not efficient. You have large shuttles, they wait for a long time with the engines on, they usually drive five, six people when it is not the rush hour, that's not a good way of running people and it's absolutely not eco-friendly." NAVIA is designed to carry up to ten standing passengers at a maximum speed of about 20 kilometres per hour. Its on-board computer navigates a pre-programmed route, while sensors on the vehicle's exterior are designed to detect approaching obstacles, and activate an automated braking system. But the sensor system - and in particular its decision-making capability - is not perfect, at least not yet - according to the university's Anshumen Tripathi. SOUNDBITE) (English) ANSHUMAN TRIPATHI - NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY ENERGY RESEARCH INSTITUTE SENIOR SCIENTIST, SAYING: "So this decision making gets hindered when we have very heavy rain or when we have snowing and so on and so forth. So, we are also working on developing more prominent sensor network." The team also wants to shorten the battery charging time from seven hours to less than one, increasing NAVIA's potential as a viable alternative in future urban environments. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDUCT MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR MAX LEFEVRE, SAYING: "We're not going to replace tomorrow, all the cars, it's just the beginning of our vision. In the future, maybe we will have personal cars or taxi cabs that you just call and takes you on the highway at a much faster speed." But until then, the team say they're content to take it one step, one test drive, at a time.