Autonomous Vehicle Startup REKA Expands Beyond Malaysia with Foreign Partnership
Malaysian self-driving car start-up, REKA, is gaining international recognition. It is teaming up with Singaporean autonomous vehicle (AV) players to pursue commercial application of its AV technology.
It is big step up for Malaysia’s first homegrown self-driving technology, which REKA says had seen a successful test drive from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur without a human driver.
Particularly, setting foot into the Singaporean AV ecosystem bodes well for REKA. A presence across the Causeway will enable the start-up to ride the Singaporean authorities’ push towards self-driving technology applications in transportation, industrial and logistics sectors.
It is joining a growing number of AV technology start-ups based in Singapore — such as leading AV software developer nuTonomy — who are already leveraging on facilitative infrastructure such as LTA’s One-North and NTU (CETRAN)’s AV test circuit and other incentives.
Details remain scarce as the new project REKA is embarking on is still confidential at this stage. However, there are several strong possibilities on what it could be pursuing given recent developments in Singapore.
One possibility is truck platooning. Back in Oct 2015, the Singaporean Ministry of Transport (MoT) and PSA Corporation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to begin requesting proposals for the design and testing of autonomous truck platooning over a three-year period.
Truck platooning refers to a convoy of self-driving trucks following a human-driven lead truck to raise the amount of cargo transported per human driver, boosting productivity. In January 2017, MoT and PSA signed agreements with Sweden’s Scania and Japan’s Toyota Tsusho to work on the project.
Another scenario could relate to passenger transportation applications, given the Singaporean Land Transport Authority (LTA)’s vision of self-driving passenger cars becoming a critical mode of transportation for Singaporeans in as soon as 10 to 15 years’ time.
The LTA will begin self-driving bus trials in three townships by 2022. The announcement was made during the launch of Singapore’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) test centre situated next to the Nanyang Technological University.
Looking further ahead, a potential next step in that scenario could be for REKA to partner with TUMCREATE, a joint research programme between NTU and Germany’s Technische Universität München (TUM).
Funded by the National Research Foundation of Singapore, TUMCREATE seeks to develop innovative future transportation concepts and eventually build the ultimate transportation systems. A collaboration with TUMCREATE may open the door for a proof-of-concept of REKA’s self-driving technology that could lead to commercial application.
A third possible scenario for REKA could be a defence system leveraging on its AV algorithm. While this remains a more distant possibility, recent developments indicate it is not out of the question.’
In early November, Singapore‘s DSO National Laboratories unveiled the V15, the republic’s first locally developed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can take off and land vertically. The UAV is paired with an unmanned ground vehicle to be its landing platform.
According to DSO, among the V15’s applications could be for driverless trucks are used to deliver supplies in a foreign landscape. The drone could then scout the surroundings so to speak to ensure the path forward is clear.
Regardless, it is encouraging to see homegrown Malaysian start-ups like REKA getting noticed internationally, even landing what could be a game-changing partnership for them to develop their AV algorithm further.
One only hopes that Malaysian talents being lured overseas does not become a recurring theme down the road, given a lack of visible pursuit by the Malaysian authorities so far on self-driving technology applications at home.