Guide to All Driverless Buses in NTU & Where You Can Catch Them

Image: Volvo Buses

When I think of the shuttle buses in NTU during my university days, I remember the incredibly long queues and anxiety attacks they would induce when I was already late for my class.

To make things worse, I distinctly remember this image I saw on Facebook while I was waiting in one of those lines:

Image: Facebook (The Bullet)

Why must you rub it in… I was just a poor student trying to make more financially responsible decisions…

For those who don’t get it, this is based on a Singapore joke that spread around in early 2018 when a social studies textbook was found to say that Singaporeans who enjoy activities like golf and fine dining are of a high socio-economic class while those who use Singlish and play football in HDB estates are of a low socio-economic class.

Universities such as NTU and NUS offer students the option of paid public buses or free school shuttle buses to get to their classes.

The joker who made this meme is saying that those who take the public buses are high SES while the peasants who queue (and queue some more because sometimes you just can’t get on board the first one) are low SES.

Image: Ask Ideas

But better days are ahead, I hope.

To all my fellow shuttle bus warriors, an upgrade is headed our way this year: driverless shuttle buses.

Before you can say:

Image: Daily Mail

Here’s What Those Are

In 2019, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is set to roll out a series of driverless and electric shuttle buses in its rise to becoming Singapore’s first Smart Campus.

Developed by NTU’s Energy Research Institute ([email protected]) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), these driverless buses range from a 40-seater bus to minibuses.

When Goody Feed spoke to Dr Answuman, a researcher from NTU’s Energy Research Department, he explained that the driverless shuttles are part of an ongoing research project that the department has been working on for about 7 years now. Currently, he said, the buses are still undergoing trials.

NTU has so far announced 4 different types of driverless and electric buses.

Peter Tay meets a Genie who helps him wipe off three of his past mistakes. You won’t have expected what he wished for for his third wish. Watch it here:

The NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus

Image: Volvo Buses

This Volvo driverless electric bus is probably the first of its kind worldwide. It was unveiled in its full glory on 5 Mar 2019 for tests in actual traffic conditions.

Out of the 4, The NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus is able to fit the most number of passengers: 40 seated with standing room.

Although it appears to be much like the regular NTU shuttle bus on the outside, it has a fully electric, emission-free that consumes 80% less energy than regular diesel buses.

Its highly advanced system has automated steering, gear-changing and speed-throttling technologies that will keep students safe on their way to class.

This huge vehicle charges wirelessly using an overhead charging arm that provides up to 300kW of charging power in three to six minutes.

The Arma

Image: yp.sg

Developed by the French company Navya SAS, the Arma is a fully driverless and electric mini-bus. It can drive both forwards and backwards and has a top speed of 45km/h.

The Arma is equipped with four on-board cameras and eight light sensors, two of which provide 360-degree detection. It also has GPS and 3G communication systems for real-time monitoring and navigation. All these ensure that passengers are 100% safe.

The Flash

Image: Nanyang Technological University

The Flash is an ultra fast-charging NTU-Blue Solutions Flash Shuttle that can carry up to 22 passengers.

It takes a remarkable 20 seconds to charge its ‘supercapacitor’ batteries. One charge can last up to 2km at top speeds of 40km/h. (Even my phone can’t charge that quickly)

Although the Flash is still undergoing trails, lucky students can hop on and off it as it travels between the North Hill residential halls and JTC’s CleanTech One after June this year.

The GRT 

Image: Nanyang Technological University

The GRT or Group Rapid Transit by SMRT and 2GetThereAsia uses magnetic pellets on the road for autonomous navigation, making it look like its almost floating off the ground.

The vehicle’s bumper is fitted with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and ultrasound radars which detect obstructions, while cameras are used to give visual feedback to the operations centre.

The system has a localised accuracy of up to 1cm, compared to the commonly Global Positioning System (GPS), which only has an accuracy of up to a meter.

In short, no, you don’t have to worry about the bus hitting you or other objects, or getting lost, even though there isn’t a driver.

The GRT picks up passengers on demand via the interactive mobility-as-a-service app, Jalan. It can carry a maximum of 11 seated and 4 standing passengers.

It can travel both forwards and backwards with top speeds of 40km/h.

On April 16 2018, NTU, SMRT Services and Dutch autonomous vehicles (AV) manufacturer 2getthere  signed a Memorandum of Understanding, paving the way for the GRTs to be integrated into NTU’s transport network.

This ‘floating’ AV has been undergoing trial runs around the entire campus and has already started ferrying passengers.

Better Days Ahead

The [email protected] states on their website that the driverless buses will help alleviate a number of problems such as traffic congestion, manpower and road safety issues as well as pollution.

What I hope is that with these driverless buses, students will be experiencing shorter queues and getting to their classes on time, and in style.

Also, I’m sure these driverless buses have now officially made shuttle buses high SES.

Image: Imgflip