NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus Trial

The NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus was launched on 5th March 2019.

The 12-metre autonomous electric bus is touted as the ‘worlds first’ full-sized driverless electric bus. It was the product of a development programme between the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Volvo Buses of Sweden, in partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), to develop and conduct autonomous vehicle bus trials for fixed routes and scheduled services.

The autonomous bus is based on the Volvo 7900 Electric bus as a development platform, which is an all-electric citybus already being sold in the European market. Two of these buses have been brought into Singapore; one unit will be based at NTU and tested within the University campus.

The second autonomous bus underwent tests at SMRT Woodlands Bus Depot, which provides a real-world environment to assess the vehicle’s ability to autonomously navigate into vehicle washing bays and park safely at charging areas.

Each autonomous bus is equipped with numerous sensors and navigation controls, such as light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors for charting, positioning and scanning the area around the bus; stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D; and an advanced global navigation satellite system which uses multiple data sources to give location accuracy of up to 1cm. The bus will also automatically regulate its steering, gear changing and speed.

In addition, the sensors and navigation platforms are managed by an artificial intelligence (AI) system developed by NTU researchers, which also enables the vehicle to navigate autonomously through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions. It is also protected with cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions.


The Bus

Volvo 7900 Electric
Volvo 7900 Electric in Singapore. width=
Manufacturer Volvo Buses
Bodywork Volvo Integral
Years in operation 2019 –
Operators NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus Development
Technical Data
Length 12 metre
Motor 160kW electric motor
Transmission Volvo 2-speed automated transmission
Accessibility Low Floor & Wheelchair-accessible
Emission Standard NA (Zero tailpipe emissions)

The Volvo 7900 Electric bus is used for the autonomous bus development trial. It is a fully-low-floor, single-deck, battery-electric city bus built by Volvo Buses for the European market, and requires 80 per cent less energy than an equivalent-sized diesel bus.

The bus was first unveiled in October 2015 and has entered service in Europe prior to the autonomous bus project in Singapore. The bus relies on the Opportunity Charging System in regular service, which the batteries are quickly topped up via an overhead charging system installed at the endpoints of a bus route.

For the trial, the two Volvo 7900 Electric buses are configured in a 12-metre right-hand drive (RHD). RD3162L comes with a single entrance door, while RD3169T comes with both an entrance and an exit door.

Electric Technology

Volvo touts the 7900 Electric bus as being silent and comfortable. Contributing little noise and zero tailpipe emissions, the bus is ideal for urban environments and compliant with existing low-emission and low-noise zones within European cities. The Opportunity Charging System is also touted as superior to overnight charging, allowing Volvo to use a smaller and lighter battery pack, which improves bus capacity. The Volvo 7900 Electric is available with a choice of 150, 200 and 250 kWh batteries.

During normal operations, energy stored within the onboard batteries is released to power the electric motors and onboard systems. The electric motors drive the rear wheels via a simple two-speed automated transmission, and also acts as a generator to recover mechanical energy back into electrical energy in a process known as regenerative braking.

Charging System:

The Volvo 7900 Electric offers a fully-automatic fast charging sequence in just six minutes via a roof-mounted conductive charging system, paired with the OppCharge opportunity charging interface. In Singapore, the ABB HVC 300P fast charge system was installed at Cleantech One facilitate the trial, which delivers 300 kW DC power and will recharge a battery in three to six minutes.

Volvo 7900 Electric at a OppCharge charging station in Sweeden
Volvo 7900 Electric at an OppCharge charging station in Sweden

Supplied by Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB, OppCharge is an open and competition-neutral interface seeking to accelerate the adoption of electric buses by being compatible with multiple bus manufacturers, hence offering operators choice and flexibility of buses without the need to modify existing charging infrastructure. These overhead pylon chargers with extendable pantographs are usually installed at the end stops of bus routes, allowing buses to quickly receive a full charge in-between trips. The bus can also be charged via cable if necessary.

Bus Features:

The buses bear the registration numbers RD3162L and RD3169T.

Basic Technical Specifications
Motor / Battery Electric Motor paired with Lithium-Ion batteries
Electric motor rated at 160 kW / 400 Nm
Transmission Volvo 2-speed automated transmission
Bodywork Volvo Integral Bodywork (TBC)
Assembled in Wroclaw, Poland and shipped to Singapore fully assembled
Autonomous Technology – LIDAR sensors (Light detection and ranging) for charting, positioning and scanning areas around the bus
– Stereo-vision cameras for 3D image capture
– Advanced Global Navigation Satellite System for location accuracy of up to 1 cm
– Autonomous controller and monitoring station — automatically-regulated steering, gear changing and speed control
Artificial Intelligence (AI) system for navigation
Cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions
Other Features Mobitec Electronic Display Sign (EDS) — Orange LED matrix design, mounted on front, side and rear
– Autonomous driving activation button and emergency cutoff next to dashboard
– Driver display screen for autonomous software interface
Rooftop charging rails for inverted pantograph charging
Valeo REVO-E electric air-conditioning system
– Manual wheelchair ramp
– Hopper windows
– Emergency exit door (offside)
– USB charging ports
– Rotating beacon light (front and rear)
– Licensed carrying capacity (RD3162L): 36 seated and 57 standing passengers
Investment:

According to Volvo Buses president Hakan Agnevall in March 2019, the company had invested $4 million so far in the trials, with the additional amount spent on technology development on the bus “much, much more” than $4 million. He added that Volvo would continue investing in Singapore, despite having spent significant amounts on the autonomous bus development project.


Development Timeline:

Detailed development timeline (Click to expand)
June 2015 – Request for Information

In June 2015, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) (RFI-PR132 – Request for Information – Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI)@One-North) to seek “proposals on how AV technology can be harnessed as part of other land transport mobility concepts, which include mobility-on-demand and autonomous buses”.

October 2016 – Agreement for Autonomous Bus Trials between LTA & NTU

On 19 October 2016, an agreement between LTA and Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore) was signed during the opening ceremony of Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition (SITCE) 2016 to collaborate on a series of transport research projects, conducted under the ambit of the LTA-NTU Transport Research Centre (TRC) which was set up in November 2015 to conduct research and technical trials for innovative technologies in the transport industry. One of the projects involved trials for two fully-autonomous 12-metre buses.

For the Autonomous Bus Trial, as part of the RFI issued in June 2015, LTA partnered the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) to develop autonomous bus technologies, which included conducting a self-driving bus trial for fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-town travel.

Under the collaboration, ERI@N will test and develop their self-driving vehicle technology with two electric hybrid buses. ERI@N aims to outfit existing buses with a suite of intelligent sensors and develop an autonomous system that can effectively navigate Singapore’s local road traffic and climate conditions, enabling the self-driving buses to operate safely and efficiently.

The roads between NTU and CleanTech Park, which is located within Jurong Innovation District, have been earmarked as potential test routes for the self-driving bus trial. It is envisaged that the trial could be extended in future to ferry commuters from NTU and Cleantech Park to Pioneer MRT station.

The self-driving buses will feature opportunistic charging technology that will enable them to be recharged when they stop at a bus depot or bus stops.

January 2018 – Volvo 7900 Electric Bus chosen for Trial

On 11 January 2018, NTU Singapore and Volvo Buses announced that they would begin testing autonomous electric passenger buses in Singapore in 2019, using the 40-seater Volvo 7900 Electric buses equipped with autonomous driving technologies. These technologies include GPS and LIDAR laser technology systems for charting, positioning and detecting obstacles around the vehicle, and an integrated navigation system that includes automated steering, gear changing, and speed throttling technologies.

The buses will be tested from early 2019 at the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU (CETRAN). The autonomous vehicle test circuit, which is modelled after real road conditions in Singapore, provides a safe and controlled environment to test autonomous vehicles.

The NTU-Volvo programme was supported by SMRT and ABB, which will be assessing the vehicles’ roadworthiness and charging systems.

March 2019 – Launch of Autonomous Electric Bus

On 5 March 2019, NTU Singapore and Volvo Buses launched Volvo 7900 Electric Autonomous Bus, touted as “the world’s first full size, autonomous electric bus today”.

The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) entered the Autonomous Bus scene in October 2016 when it signed an agreement with the LTA to develop autonomous bus technologies, including conducting a self-driving bus trial for fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-town travel.

Under this collaboration, the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) would test and develop their self-driving vehicle technology with two electric hybrid buses. The roads between NTU and CleanTech Park, which is located within Jurong Innovation District, were earmarked as potential test routes for the self-driving bus trial. It was envisaged that the trial could be extended in future to ferry commuters from NTU and Cleantech Park to Pioneer MRT station. The self-driving buses would feature opportunistic charging technology that will enable them to be recharged when they stop at a bus depot or bus stops.

In January 2018, Volvo Buses was brought onboard the trial to develop electricity-powered autonomous buses, representing the company’s first foray into autonomous uses for buses and public transport. The project to develop the Autonomous Bus is led by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles (CETRAN).

In March 2019, a launch ceremony was held for the bus and showcased to the media. Videos posted by the media show the bus stopping safely when it is presented with an obstacle in front; however, the bus ran through multiple red lights and failed to keep in lane while navigating a left turn.

October 2019 – ITS World Congress Singapore 2019

One unit of the Volvo 7900 Electric Bus, RD3169T, was showcased at the 26th ITS World Congress 2019 held in Singapore. As part of demonstrations, the autonomous bus plied a fixed circuit within The Float @ Marina Bay.


CETRAN test circuit. Photo by JTC.
CETRAN test circuit. Photo by JTC.

The test circuit:

The bus was tested at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles (CETRAN), a 1.8-hectare test facility within the Jurong Innovation District. Opened in August 2016, the test circuit emulates a multitude of urban scenarios, including an area with simulated rainfall. The facility offers a safe environment for rigorous testing of the bus before it enters public roads.

Road Trials:

NTU Trial

In early 2019, one unit of the Volvo 7900 Electric Autonomous Bus (Registered as RD3162L), underwent multiple tests Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles – NTU (CETRAN) before the official launch on 5 March 2019.

Later in 2019, a mixed traffic demonstration for the bus to ply roads within the NTU campus. There are plans to extend the test route between NTU and the nearby Pioneer MRT Station. During the trials, the bus would be tested without passengers on board.

SMRT Bus Depot Trial

Another unit of the Volvo 7900 Electric Autonomous Bus (Registered as RD3169T) was trialled at SMRT Woodlands Bus Depot, to test the vehicle’s capabilities to autonomously navigate into vehicle washing bays and park safely at charging areas. Trials were expected to begin on April 2019.

The objective is to ensure that autonomous buses are able to charge their batteries, drive through the depots to the vehicle wash and park – entirely autonomously.

Checkpoints for the trial included:

  • Depot Entrance
  • Coinbox Collection
  • Bus Washing
  • Charging Station
Gallery: (Before restickering)

Gallery:

Launch Promotional Video:


See Also:
External Links & References:

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