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Delphi to Test Self-Driving Taxi Service In Singapore

This island nation is doubling down on self-driving tech, particularly car-hailing applications

2 min read
Audi with Delphi enhancements for robotaxi service in Singapore
Photo: Delphi

Robotaxi tests will soon begin in Singapore, and commercial service is projected for 2019, says Delphi, the auto supplier that’s running the project alongside the Singaporean government and with help from Mobileye.  

“It’s one of the first, if not the very first, pilot programs where we’ll demonstrate mobility-on-demand systems,” Glen DeVos, a Delphi senior vice president, told Bloomberg News at a press briefing at the company’s headquarters in Troy, Michigan. Mobility on demand is fancyspeak for ride-hailing, such as Uber and Lyft offer.  DeVos added that later this year Delphi will announce similar programs in Europe and the United States. 

Nutonomy, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has already road-tested its own robotaxi concept in Singapore’s central business district. That company also plans to go commercial soon.

Delphi’s first modified cars—Audi Q5’s, fitted with extra sensors—will have drivers behind the wheel and will follow three, well-mapped circuits just 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) around. After researchers gain experience, they will let the cars dispense with their human minders and range over the entire city-state.

Singapore, an island, is a good testbed because of its compact size, sober drivers, unified government, and congested roads. Robotaxis can ease congestion because they should decrease the number of cars on the road and they rarely need a parking space.

A cab ride in a dense urban area can cost US $3 to 4 a mile, DeVos said. “We think we can get to 90 cents a mile.” 

Those figures agree with the 75 reduction in cost estimated back in 2013 by Larry Burns, director of the Program on Sustainable Mobility at Columbia University. Burns based his calculations on conditions in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Robotaxis will have to cope with Singapore’s tropical weather, which gets an average of 232 centimeters (92 inches) of rain a year, making it one of the wettest large cities in the world. That’s bad news for cameras and even LIDAR, although not for radar.

It’s interesting that Delphi is developing the robotaxis with help from Mobileye, the Israeli firm that has so far specialized in automated driving based on a single camera. That will change, though: Mobileye is preparing its next-generation system to fuse the output of multiple, complementary sensor systems.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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