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Volvo’s Self-Driving Bus to Undergo Real-World Testing in Singapore

Posted April 23, 2019

Volvo and Singapore University have revealed a driverless electric bus that will enter a testing phase on open roadways in the city-state soon. Not only is the transport autonomous, but it’s also much more efficient and safer for the environment.

Image credit: Volvo Buses

Image credit: Volvo Buses

It uses 80 percent less energy than a diesel bus of the same size. All these positive qualities despite the fact that it carries close to 80 passengers at full capacity.

It, along with similar models of driverless vehicles, is also outfitted with a bevy of sensors and navigational tools, collectively powered by an artificial intelligence system that will help the vehicle travel safely. Initially, the bus will undergo trials on Singapore University’s sprawling campus. The test will likely expand to other roadways upon continued success.

Volvo’s bus is impressive, to say the least, but it also helps to show that the technology is growing ever closer to public and mainstream use. It won’t be long before we see driverless technology available just about everywhere.

What About the Dangers of Driverless Technology?

Driverless vehicles are coming soon, and it’s happening whether we’re ready or not. But the more alarming aspect of the technology is how it will be used to further public transportation and travel. We’ve seen consumer-grade driverless vehicles on the road for years, and they’ve been largely successful and underwhelming in terms of the dangers they pose.

At least, that was the case until recent events played out. Boeing and Uber are largely responsible for passenger safety concerns of late. Where once the technology’s surrounding sentiment was rife with positivity and promise, now society is collectively taking a step back to question the implications of driverless and autonomous transports.

Boeing’s 737 Max 8 debacle showed that, in the end, no manner of regulatory and certification processes can truly vet a system and determine whether it’s ready for prime time. Boeing convinced the FAA that their system was totally safe, and it has had two deadly crashes since.

Similarly, Uber put a lot of stock in their safety collision system, which had multiple failings before one of their driverless vehicles struck and killed a woman. The real problem, however, was that one of the vehicle’s primary systems had been disabled before the event.

Engineers had disabled the car’s emergency braking system to smooth out the ride — it was making frequent, rough stops up until then — which meant at the time of the accident, the vehicle’s sensors did see the pedestrian but couldn’t stop the vehicle as needed.

Of course, these aren’t the only accidents that have involved self-driving vehicles. Over the past few years, there have been several accidents involving Tesla and Google, among others. These events sure paint a dire picture of the self-driving market, particularly in regard to the capabilities and safety of the technology. But the reality is that self-driving vehicles are still much safer than their human-controlled alternatives.

Yes, Driverless Vehicles Are Still Safe

It’s important to remember that the technology is going to have its fair share of hiccups along the way. Waymo recently logged 5 million self-driven miles, for instance, without incident. Google has also had their driverless vehicles on open roadways for a long time now, with the same level of proficiency.

In Uber’s case, human error was still to blame, especially since there’s no way of knowing if the accident would have even happened with the braking systems still on. With Boeing, the same can be said. The company was too quick to push their systems into active operation when they clearly warranted more testing and more work.

As time goes on and the technology becomes more capable and more advanced — and the AI systems collect more performance data during use — the vehicles will grow to be safer and more efficient. The question is, how many more accidents are going to happen before we get there?

Written by Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes

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