NTU’s driverless buses delayed indefinitely

The Ground Rapid Transport (GRT) was tested by NTU and SMRT on a route between Hall 12 and Hall 14. Its launch has been delayed indefinitely. (PHOTO: SMRT)
  • LTA is still drafting regulations for AVs in Singapore 
  • The technology behind AVs still needs to be refined, said programme director Dr Anshuman Tripathi 

By Yong Hui Ting

Students anticipating driverless bus rides around campus will have to wait until further notice.  

Automated Vehicles (AV) due to launch this year on campus have been delayed, as regulations surrounding AVs in Singapore are still being drawn up by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), said Dr Anshuman Tripathi. He is a programme director in charge of conducting AV tests for NTU.

Dr Anshuman said that the buses are unlikely to begin full operations on NTU’s roads anytime soon.  

“It’s not just about developing AVs and putting them out on the road as long as they work. There are a lot of things to consider regarding whether it’s safe,” he said. 

“Until it is completely safe, we can’t put them out,” he added.  

Safety regulations aside, Dr Anshuman said that the technology behind AV buses has yet to be refined.  

For example, AVs navigate by using light sensors, which detect reflections from white lines or bright surfaces that are placed on the road to mark the vehicle’s route, he said. 

However, obstacles on the road may confuse these sensors.  

“Things like leaves lying on the road may disrupt the light sensors because green plants don’t reflect light back into the sensors the way white surfaces do. This may cause the light sensors to become inaccurate or fail while on the road,” Dr Anshuman said. 

One of the projects, named the Arma project, has been scrapped entirely. It was previously tested near The Hive and residential halls at North Hill.  

Dr Anshuman said NTU saw more value in developing higher capacity buses compared to electric minibuses like the Arma. 

These delays close the door for AVs to be used as an immediate solution to NTU’s Campus Loop congestion issues. 

Click here for more about AV buses in NTU

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