Start-up puts brakes on self-driving trials after accident

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Start-up nuTonomy has put its tests of driverless cars on hold following an accident involving one of its vehicles on Tuesday, The Straits Times understands.

However, tests by three other agencies - A*Star, Delphi and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart) - conducting self-driving trials in the one-north area are still ongoing.

Dr Eng You Hong, a postdoctoral associate with Smart, said his team would "strictly follow safety protocols" as they had done over the past year.

One of nuTonomy's self-driving cars hit a lorry in Biopolis Drive at one-north while on a test drive on Tuesday. The vehicle, which had two engineers on board, was said to be travelling at a "low speed" and was changing lanes when the accident happened at about 9.30am. No one was hurt.

The Traffic Police and Land Transport Authority (LTA) are still investigating the incident.

"Additionally, the company is conducting its own investigation into the exact cause of the incident," said nuTonomy in a statement on Tuesday.

nuTonomy is one of two firms selected by the LTA to test on-demand driverless taxi services here.

There has been a push towards the adoption of driverless technology in recent years.

On Monday, the National Environment Agency and Transport Ministry issued a request for information for the development of driverless road cleaners.

Two days later, Nanyang Technological University signed an agreement with the LTA to hold trials of self-driving buses beginning in 2018.

Singapore's drive for autonomous vehicles is still in its infancy and is unlikely to be set back by the accident, said experts.

"Driverless vehicles here are still in the testing stage," said Dr Park Byung Joon, SIM University senior lecturer in urban transport management, adding that he believed nuTonomy would still be able to launch commercially here in two years' time.

This article was first published on Oct 21, 2016.
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