Driverless pods to race down Singapore's roads by the end of 2016

Will the ambitious project lead to commuters choosing self-driving pods over personal transport?

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2getthere

A new joint venture between SMRT Services and 2Getthere hopes to develop and launch self-driving pods for use on Singapore's roads by the end of the year.

In an announcement posted Wednesday, the two companies said the JV will market, supply and operate 2getthere's "Automated Vehicle" systems across the Asia-Pacific, with the overall aim of launching the 3rd Generation Group Rapid Transit (GRT) concept vehicle for commercial travel in the coming months.

A replica of the GRT was unveiled in Singapore at the time of the announcement. According to the manufacturer, the electricity-based GRT is able to carry up to 24 passengers per pod, and can ferry up to 8,000 passengers per hour.

While no details have been revealed concerning the expense of the project, 2getthere says the driverless pods can act as a "low-cost" transit system which could take the place of personal transport -- which could potentially help decongest Singapore's busy road system.

"2getthere's vehicles are unique in being able to operate autonomously in demanding weather conditions, using artificial landmarks for navigation," the firm claims. "2getthere Asia will pursue both automated and mixed-use transit projects in Singapore and the region."

Colin Lim, Managing Director of SMRT Services commented:

"There is a growing national push to implement future mobility solutions that can meet our first and last-mile connectivity needs in Singapore. As part of the JV, SMRT Services will leverage on our experience in installation, operations and maintenance of transit systems to realise these solutions locally.

The Automated Vehicles will complement our existing multi-modal transport operations to bring about seamless connectivity for commuters."

As noted by Mashable, the project appears to be similar to 2getthere and SMRT's transport scheme in Abu Dhabi's Masdar City. As revealed in the video below, there are 10 smaller electric pods which are used by thousands of commuters each day.

The end of the year deadline for Singapore may be ambitious, but even if the pods are only able to ferry about a few thousand people each day to school or work, every little bit helps -- especially when we consider Singapore's high pollution index.

It may not be the full solution, but it is a start.

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