For the past several years, automotive news has been dominated by the development of the driverless car, with a number of major players in the industry vying to get their versions of the autonomous vehicle fully operative. Uber has recently vowed to have a fleet of driverless taxis operating in Pittsburgh before the end of summer.
Now, Singapore can boast of its position at the head of the pack. On August 25, 2016, this Southeast Asian Republic officially launched a small fleet of driverless taxi cabs on the Singaporean streets, cars that are fully autonomous and programmed to carry passengers in safety, comfort, and security. Automotive Finance News is your source for driverless tech news.
Developing Driverless Technology
It’s not likely that Singapore jumps immediately to mind when it comes to driverless technology. For several years now, automotive news outlets have reported the breakthroughs of technology mega-brands like Google and automotive innovators like Tesla. All the major carmakers have self-driving cars in the works, with the focus of development in North America.
Take Google, for example, a company that hasn’t been shy about getting its own automotive news out there. Since 2012 Google has been testing its enhanced Lexus, Audis, and Toyotas throughout the San Francisco Bay area, posting videos of many of its test drives online. Google has insisted that its car will be available to the public by 2020.
What exactly does it means to say that a car is autonomous, driverless, self-driving, or self-piloting? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Society of Automotive Engineers have set up a 1-5 system to define how much human effort is needed to get an auto safely from point A to point B. A Level-1 vehicle has cruise control; a Level-2 car “knows” how to avoid pedestrians and other cars under normal conditions; a Level-3 takes control of lane and speed changes under normal road conditions. It’s the Level 4/5 vehicle that dominates automotive news at the moment. These cars eschew all human contributions. They handle themselves under all conditions. And this is the vehicle all the major companies are eager to create.
With research and development proceeding at breakneck speed, it’s no wonder that society has had to step back and wonder how to respond. Satisfactory responses to issues of policing, traffic regulation, insurance, and public safety have been slow to develop. It was only in January 2016 that the province of Ontario officially allowed the use of autonomous cars on its roads. And only four US states – Michigan, Nevada, Florida, and California – currently allow their use.
It’s no surprise, then, that the first fatality to involve a driverless vehicle occurred in Florida in May 2016, when a Tesla Model S in autopilot mode crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer rig, killing the “driver” of the Tesla. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating this incident.
The Google autonomous car has had its share of collisions as well, although no fatalities to date.
The Singapore Achievement
In light of this break-neck development, Singapore can claim now to have the world’s first self-driving/autonomous taxis. The debut may not be flashy, but it’s an official beginning.
A small research company by the name of nuTonomy has led the way. NuTonomy persuaded the Singapore government to let it try out its autonomous vehicles in an area that measures about 4 square kilometers. NuTonomy fitted out 6 Renault and Mitsubishi electric cars with its own software and electronics. The city required that the cars use designated pick-up and drop-off points, that the passengers register before using the service, and that a back-up driver be present. The rides are free.
From tiny acorns great oak trees grow. NuTonomy and Singapore can justly claim to be the first to inaugurate what is doubtless going to be a mega-innovation in automotive technology.
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