Self-drive cars to be tested

LTA signs deals with two companies

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) signed separate partnership agreements with two companies yesterday to test their concepts of shared, on-demand self-driving transportation.

Delphi Automotive Systems of the UK and Singapore-based nuTonomy were shortlisted from several others which had submitted proposals.

Delphi will launch a small test fleet of automated taxis in Singapore next year, aiming to ferry passengers around a city district in one of the first real-world tests of automated rides on demand, Reuters quoted the company as saying yesterday.

A cab ride in a dense urban area can cost US$3 (S$4.02) to US$4 a mile (1.6km), Delphi vice-president of engineering Glen DeVos said. "We think we can get to 90 cents a mile (with an automated vehicle)," he said.

Initially, the cars will have drivers ready to take over if the piloting systems fail, Mr DeVos said. But by 2019 or 2020, "we'll have removed drivers from the car".

By 2022, Singapore plans to launch a regularly operating automated cab service, Delphi said. The company said it plans similar projects in North America and Europe.

Delphi plans to start the project with a fleet of Audi vehicles equipped with automated driving and mapping systems. Later, Mr DeVos said, the project will expand with the addition of electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, nuTonomy has been conducting on-road testing with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV at one-north.

The company is working to launch an autonomous on-demand service with a fleet of five to 10 vehicles by 2018.

Commuters will be able to use a smartphone app to summon a vehicle that will take them from their doorstep to their destination, LTA said.

The trial programme is expected to enable the company to improve the commuter experience of these self-driving vehicles, and allow it to expand its fleet progressively in preparation for the launch of its commercial service.