Technological University, Singapore (NTU) has signed a cooperation
agreement with Volvo Buses to collaborate on a research and development program
for autonomous electric buses.
The program is part
of the Land
Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore's drive to create new solutions for
tomorrow's sustainable public transport. Smart Urban Mobility, by leveraging
data and digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and autonomous
vehicles, to further enhance the public transport commute, is one of the key
strategic Smart Nation projects. The planned deployment of self-driving buses in several areas of the country by 2022 has been announced.
For Volvo, this will be its first autonomous application in
public transportation and it has chosen NTU as its partner in this endeavour.
Volvo has already demonstrated the autonomous technology in mining, quarry and
refuse collection operations.
The 12-metre Volvo 7900 electric bus is already operating
around the world, but the buses to be deployed in Singapore will be
equipped with autonomous driving technologies. This include GPS and LIDAR  technology-based
system for charting, positioning and scanning the area around the vehicle.
Fast-charging stations based on the common OppCharge interface will be supplied by ABB. The OppCharge interface is well suited for
autonomous charging solutions in bus depots as well as in running traffic. The charging station is capable of providing 300kW of charging power in three to six minutes, during the layover times at the bus route’s end points.
One of the autonomous electric buses will be used on Singapore's advanced
new test facility for autonomous vehicles, CETRAN (Centre of Excellence for Testing
and Research of Autonomous Vehicles), opened
in December 2017. Here, in a fenced-off area NTU's researchers will be able to
test new functionality and study how the bus interacts with other road-users in
The second bus will be used for tests in the bus depot in
partnership with the public transport operator SMRT.
The aim is that tomorrow's autonomous buses should be able to charge their
batteries, drive through the depots to the vehicle wash and park – entirely
The cooperative programme between Volvo Buses and NTU is
underway and will initially last for two years. The jointly developed
autonomous electric buses are expected to arrive into Singapore in
the beginning of 2019.
NTU President Professor Subra Suresh, said, “Industry-academic
connections are key in nurturing an environment which promotes innovation,
research excellence, and technological change for a better tomorrow. NTU takes
pride in its strong industry connections, and this partnership with Volvo will
pave the way for future mobility solutions by developing and testing autonomous
buses right here on campus. These solutions will further strengthen Singapore's
vision of embracing autonomous vehicle technologies and enhance public
“We are seeing fast-growing interest in both autonomous and
electric vehicles in cities all over the world. Together with NTU, one of the
world's leading universities of technology, we now have the possibility of
testing various solutions under realistic conditions in a major city that has
high ambitions for its public transport,” says Håkan Agnevall, President Volvo
Mr. Desmond Kuek, President and Group Chief Executive
Officer, SMRT Corporation, said,“Our goal is to stay future-ready by keeping
abreast of latest land transport solutions for safe, efficient and comfortable
journeys, and adapt such urban mobility solutions to Singapore’s unique
operational setting. This MOU paves the way for SMRT, working with our
partners, in hosting operational trials for autonomous buses, and the command
& control system required for operating such smart vehicles. SMRT will
leverage on decades of experience in operating and maintaining buses to lead
the operational testing and evaluation of autonomous buses for their eventual
safe deployment on our roads.”
“The Land Transport Authority fully supports innovation and cutting edge technology that will ultimately benefit commuters. The agreement to develop and trial electric autonomous buses is a significant milestone in our journey to make this a reality in Singapore’s public bus network,” commented LTA’s Chief Innovation and Technology Officer Mr. Lam Wee Shann.
NTU has been highly involved in smart mobility initiatives
in recent years. For instance, Singapore’s first Smart Mobility consortium
was launched in
January 2017 to test new tech on NTU campus, bringing together 12 industry
partners. Yesterday, Professor Subra Suresh laid out his vision
for transforming NTU into a smart campus. As part of this initiaitive, there
are plans to deploy 22-seater fully electric shuttles, in addition to the
driverless electric shuttles that are already being tested on campus. Several
40-seater autonomous buses that support ultra-fast charging are also being
developed, together with bus stops that will have the complementary
 LiDAR or Light Detection and Ranging measures
distance to a target by illuminating that target with a pulsed laser light, and
measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times
and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3D-representations of the
target. Originally used in airborne and ground surveying to make
high-resolution maps, the technology is being used for control and navigation
for autonomous cars.