Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Volvo Buses have launched the world’s first full size, autonomous electric bus today. The single-deck Volvo Electric bus is 12 metres long and has a full capacity close to 80 passengers.
The Volvo 7900 Electric bus is equipped with numerous sensors and navigation controls managed by a comprehensive artificial intelligence (AI) system. The AI system used in this bus is also protected with industry-leading cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions.
The Volvo bus is the first of two that has undergone preliminary rounds of rigorous testing at the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU (CETRAN). Jointly set up by NTU, LTA and JTC, CETRAN is a centre dedicated to research and testing of autonomous vehicles. Plans are in place to test the bus at NTU and to subsequently extend the route beyond the NTU campus.
NTU President Professor Subra Suresh, said, “This fully autonomous electric bus will play a role in shaping the future of public transportation that is safe, efficient, reliable and comfortable for all commuters. It will soon be tested on the NTU Smart Campus, which has been home to a number of innovations as a living testbed for technologies that impact the human condition and the quality of life.
“This research project not only involves cutting-edge science, technology and AI, but is also an excellent example of close partnership among academia, industry and government agencies in translating basic research into products and services for the benefit of Singapore and beyond. And we have a top team of local and international partners in this multi-disciplinary collaboration.”
This is Volvo’s first fully autonomous and electric bus in public transportation anywhere in the world. The Volvo 7900 autonomous electric bus has 36 seats and provides a quiet operation with zero emissions. It also requires 80 per cent less energy than an equivalent sized diesel bus. The deployment will test the technology maturity and road-worthiness of the bus, including the certification of technologies for deployment on public roads. It is in line with Singapore’s vision of deploying autonomous vehicles to improve accessibility and connectivity for commuters.
The bus comes with a Volvo Autonomous Research Platform software that is connected to key controls such as its navigation system, as well as multiple sensors. This includes light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced global navigation satellite system that uses real-time kinematics. This is like any global positioning system (GPS), but uses multiple data sources to give pin-point location accuracy of up to one centimetre.
The system is also hooked up to an “inertial management unit”, which acts like a two-in-one gyroscope and accelerometer, measuring the lateral and angular rate of the bus. This will improve its navigation when going over uneven terrain and around sharp bends, ensuring a smoother ride.
These sensors and GPS platforms will be managed by a comprehensive AI system that was developed by NTU researchers. It not only operates the various sensors and GPS systems on the bus, but also enables it to navigate autonomously through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions. The AI system is protected with industry-leading cybersecurity and firewall measures to prevent unwanted intrusions for maximum safety and reliability.
The Volvo 7900 Autonomous Electric bus will be charged by ABB’s HVC 300P fast charger. Offering a charge power of 300kW via a pantograph mounted on the infrastructure, the fast chargers will recharge a battery in just three to six minutes. This will enable charging during the layover times at the end of the bus route, without impacting normal operations.