The island city-state has all the ingredients to make it the ideal proving ground for this new approach to personal mobility. While local authorities will handle the necessary infrastructure, tier-one automotive supplier Delphi has been selected to lead the vehicle technology side of the pilot program that will run from 2017 through 2019.
Delphi and the Singapore Land Transport Authority began discussions following the supplier’s successful transcontinental run in an autonomous Audi SQ5 prototype in April 2015. Delphi’s recently established Software and Services business unit will effectively play the role of a general contractor in the project, coordinating and integrating the efforts of the company’s product development team along with what are expected to be five or six primary partner companies.
An early test of autonomous vehicles in Singapore bypasses the weather related issues that current autonomous systems face and excellent infrastructure will make it easier for the vehicles to navigate around the test area.
The phase one pilot program will take place in the One North of the island with six vehicles that are yet to be built. According to De Vos, Delphi engineers expect to select a base vehicle soon and are hoping to use an electric vehicle with seating for four to six people. So far, Delphi has used the Audi SQ5 crossover as its development platform, but that vehicle has more performance than needed for this application where speeds are not expected to exceed 25 to 30 mph. The Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S seem like the most likely candidates for this project.
Following completion of the pilot phase at the end of 2019, Singapore is planning a second larger deployment, hopefully using a vehicle that has been specifically designed for autonomous driving.
Delphi plans to continue using a multi-modal sensing strategy of lidar, cameras, short and long-range radar, inertial sensors and V2X communications to function in even extreme weather conditions. All of this information is fused into a perception model and the vehicle localized within that model so that it knows where other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians are in relation to it.
In addition to moving people around, autonomous vehicles can play an important part in logistics to free up people’s time for other activities. For example an autonomous vehicle could stop by the cleaners to pick up laundry, get an order of groceries and then pick up a passenger to take them home so that they don’t have to make those trips.