As a part of Project SAVI (Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative), Singapore has designated an area in the city centre for testing autonomous vehicles in typical traffic conditions. The test space is composed of normal streets but it is extensively instrumented so that researchers can study vehicles’ behaviour from outside as well as from inside the vehicle. There are static signs on the roadside to inform the public of the autonomous vehicles conducting trials in the area but there are no special markings on the road. In August 2016, select members of the public began hailing free rides, through their smartphones, in taxis operated by nuTonomy (an autonomous vehicle software start-up).
The ultimate goal is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018. Initially the taxis will only run in a 2.5-square-mile business and residential district called “one-north”. Pick-ups and drop-offs are limited to specified locations. The cars (modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics) have a driver in the front who is ready to take back the wheel and a researcher in the back who watches the car’s computers. Each car is fitted with six sets of Lidar—a detection system that uses lasers to operate like radar—including one on the roof that constantly rotates to scan all directions. There are also two cameras on the dashboard to scan for obstacles and detect changes in traffic lights. It is estimated that autonomous taxis could reduce the number of cars on Singapore’s roads from 900,000 to 300,000.
The Royal Aeronautical Society said that there already existed “a wide range of automated capabilities within both civil and military aviation sectors”. These included automatic landing systems for use in poor weather, automated navigation, anti-collisions systems and engine controls. Furthermore, in the field of unmanned aircraft systems, automation was already underway in areas such as take-off and landing and navigation. Innovate UK said: “In civil Aerospace the technology already exists to fly point-to-point on Autopilot without the need for any human input, only monitoring.”
Rolls-Royce highlighted the potential benefit to the UK of using autonomous vessels in naval applications, both surface and sub-surface:
“The Royal Navy, like most European navies, is preparing to introduce small (<12m) unmanned vessels deployed from existing platforms to conduct specialist tasks such as mine countermeasures, surveillance and fleet protection. ‘Unmanned Warrior’, a large scale, multi-environment, military demonstration of unmanned technology has just completed off the west coast of Scotland. It combined industry, academia and defence partners, including the US Navy, to explore the feasibility of increasing the use of unmanned and autonomous systems in delivering maritime capability. Modern combatant designs, such as the Royal Navy’s planned Type 26 frigate, are increasingly including ‘mission bays’ to house and deploy such unmanned vessels. The US Navy is probably the most advanced in this area, they have commissioned a 40–metre proof-of-concept unmanned vessel, Sea Hunter, which is intended for anti-submarine and mine-hunting activities.”
The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) provided an example of how autonomous systems were used in the offshore oil and gas sector:
“Autonomy is used to reduce exposure to personnel, increase data return through the ability to obtain regular uploads of data from sub-surface instrumentation, improving the ability to perform baseline type measurements, enabling data acquisition in more severe sea-states, when manned vessels cannot operate and providing a multi-discipline (metocean, survey, Environmental Impact Assessment) platform.
“Oil major BP already employs a wide assortment of different marine autonomous systems, including wavegliders, autonauts and deeptrekkers. The company states that it’s only in recent years, as technology has advanced and costs fallen, that these vehicles have become ready to take over underwater surveillance duties. It has partnered with manufacturer Oceaneering for a large-scale AUV trial to survey pipelines and subsea infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico, ahead of a full roll-out.”
218 Bloomberg Technology, World’s First Self-Driving Taxis Debut in Singapore (25 August 2016): [accessed 20 December 2016]
219 Written evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society ()
220 Written evidence from the Royal Aeronautical Society ()
221 Written evidence from Innovate UK ()
222 Written evidence from Rolls-Royce ()
223 “Wavegliders” and “autonauts” are examples of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) powered by wave and solar energy. They are used for marine research and data collection.
224 Deeptrekkers are remotely operated vehicles—also called underwater drones—specifically designed and developed for underwater inspection.
225 Written evidence from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST) ()