Volvo goes big, puts autonomous driving tech into a full-size bus

It seems increasingly likely that shuttles will become the first widespread, real-world application of level-five autonomous vehicles, with the boxy people-carriers transporting passengers along pre-determined routes.

Indeed, a number of companies have spent the last few years testing autonomous shuttle buses as they work to improve and refine the technology.

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have approached the subject a little differently, deciding to incorporate self-driving smarts into a full-size bus rather than a small shuttle.

Working with Volvo, NTU claims that the 12-meter long, 80-person vehicle is the world’s first full-size, autonomous electric bus.

The project is part of a plan to develop and conduct autonomous bus trials for fixed routes and scheduled services in Singapore. The government has been encouraging the testing of such technology in the hope of one day persuading more citizens to ditch their cars for public transit in the densely populated city state.

The Volvo 7900 electric bus is kitted out with light detection and ranging sensors (lidars), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced global navigation satellite system that uses multiple data sources to give pinpoint location accuracy to the nearest centimeter.

Notably, NTU says the bus incorporates an artificial intelligence system that’s “protected with industry-leading cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions,” because the last thing you want is for a hacker to take control of a massive bus.

The Volvo vehicle is the first of two buses to be put through its paces at Singapore’s Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU (CETRAN). The center includes a custom-built track featuring typical street fixtures such as traffic signals, bus stops, and pedestrian crossings.

CETRAN can also re-create harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain and partially flooded roads, both of which pose serious challenges for autonomous vehicle technology.

The other autonomous Volvo bus is scheduled to undergo tests at a working bus depot in Singapore where it will autonomously navigate into vehicle washing bays and charging areas.

Commenting on the project, NTU President and 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.”

Håkan Agnevall, president of Volvo Buses, said the collaboration represented “a key milestone for the industry and is an important step toward our vision for a cleaner, safer, and smarter city,” though he acknowledged that the journey toward full autonomy “is undoubtedly a complex one.”

While the Singapore team claims that the Volvo vehicle is the first full-size, autonomous electric bus ever to hit the road, it’s actually not the first time we’ve seen driverless technology incorporated into a vehicle of this size. In 2015, for example, a company working with the Chinese Academy of Engineering successfully tested a (non-electric?) driverless bus on regular roads, with a video showing it changing lanes, overtaking other vehicles, and responding to lights.

Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Cars

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Cars

FWD vs. RWD vs. AWD: How the wheels that turn change the way you drive

Let's face it, you've likely heard front-, rear-, and all-wheel drive mentioned before in some context or another. But what do these terms mean, especially in terms of performance? We’ve got the answers.
Cars

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers

Nvidia introduced a simulator for testing autonomous vehicle technologies. Drive Constellation is a cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads.
Cars

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.
Cars

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.
Cars

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.
Cars

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Cars

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.