NTU, SMRT, and 2getthere to test autonomous vehicles at Singapore’s MaaS testbed


Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), public transportation operator SMRT Services, and Netherlands-based autonomous transportation developer 2getthere have joined forces to deploy fully automated Group Rapid Transit (GRT) vehicles on the university’s Smart Campus by 2019.

The three parties have signed a memorandum of understanding that will pave the way for the GRT to be integrated into NTU’s transportation network, as part of the Smart Campus Mobility as a Service (MaaS) testbed. The parties are also exploring the possibility of extending this to state-owned real-estate development company JTC’s CleanTech Park.

The new GRTs will be tested on NTU’s campus in several phases, which will start around the last quarter of this year. The electric-powered 2getthere shuttles use magnetic transponders in the road surface for autonomous navigation and can travel in both directions. They have a top speed of 25mph (40km/h) and can carry 24 passengers with seating space for eight. The vehicles are expected to operate a service route that connects NTU’s halls of residences with the main academic areas, serving 200-300 passengers daily.

The collaboration will also involve conducting research to improve autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies, such as increasing the use of artificial intelligence (AI), developing advanced sensors and sensor fusion algorithms, and improving fleet management technologies. The trial will be gradually expanded campus-wide, running alongside other AVs that have already been undergoing tests since 2012. This latest testbedding of AVs is part of the university’s Smart Campus initiative to develop rapidly advancing transportation technologies to benefit the NTU community and society as a whole.

The GRT was introduced to NTU last September for potential use at its MaaS testbed, which is a collaboration between the university, JTC and SMRT. The testbed seeks to integrate multiple modes of transportation, including shuttle buses, bike sharing systems, e-scooters and e-bikes, and now the autonomous GRT, into a single mobility platform called ‘Jalan-jalan’, developed by MobilityX to improve connectivity and travel within NTU’s campus and JTC’s CleanTech Park, which will be the largest living lab in Singapore.

The Jalan-jalan smartphone application has received strong support during its pilot testing between NTU’s campus and JTC’s CleanTech Park from last August. For e-scooters alone, the app was used to book over 67,000 trips, clocking a total of over 49,700 miles (80,000km). Since November last year, the GRT has undergone preliminary tests along a 1,150ft (350m) long route between two NTU halls of residence, with close to 4,000 passengers ferried between the two stops.

“Our campus is not only a living testbed for innovative technologies, but also the first to test driverless vehicles in Singapore,” noted NTU’s president, Prof. Subra Suresh. “Autonomous vehicles are an integral part of our Smart Campus vision, which leverages tech-enabled solutions to create better living and learning experiences. This new collaboration with SMRT and 2getthere highlights our goal of developing cutting-edge transport solutions that will benefit Singapore and beyond.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).