A prototype of a four-wheel self-driving scooter is now open for public trials on Thursday (17 November) at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Future Urban Mobility workshop at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The scooter, which weigh around 50kg, was developed by a team of four over a period of two months beginning in February this year. It runs on battery power and travels at a “walking speed” – maximum of 6kmh.
Dr Marcelo Ang, co-principal investigator at Smart, said that the scooter, which is smaller than a golf buggy, costs around $15,000. However, the price could drop to just “hundreds of dollars” when the technology becomes widely available.
This vehicle has laser sensors to detect obstacles up to 2.5m in front and 10cm at the sides. These appliances allow the vehicle to slow down or stop when it approaches obstacles.
The device can be used indoors and outdoor. It can even work in areas with poor lighting. However, SMART siad that it is meant to be a complementary to existing transportation system and it works best in car-free areas.
SMART also said that the vehicle would be the most beneficial to “people who cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive” including the elderly, youth and people with disabilities.
The project is funded by the Government’s National Research Foundation under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE). The programme is now being tested within the University Town area at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The scooter has also been tested at several housing estates such as Sembawang and Queenstown.
Dr Ang said that the scooter is the “last last-mile solution”, saying, “It can provide seamless travel, you can book it to take you from your doorstep to a pick-up point where you can take a driverless car to a train station”
He also noted that several organisations have expressed interest in the device.
Personal mobility devices (PMD) and self-driving technology are part of the Government’s plan to push towards for a car-lite society. One of its strategies is reducing commuting time in the first- and last-mile part of journeys.