UK, US and Singapore testing low speed self driving cars on real city streets

Singapore will open one of its neighborhoods to driverless cars in 2015, with the idea that such vehicles could operate as a kind of jitney service, picking up passengers and taking them to trains or other modes of public transportation. The vehicles might be like golf carts, taking people short distances at low speeds, similar to the driverless vehicles demonstrated this year by Google.

At 700 square kilometers, Singapore is about three times the size of Boston, but it has 5.5 million residents versus Boston’s 646,000. Because it is so dense, Singapore is aggressively trying to discourage car traffic. For example, if you want to own a car in Singapore you have to pay a “certificate of entitlement” fee that’s roughly equal to the price of a car. It also offers free travel on city trains before peak periods (along with free breakfast vouchers).

This electric car, retrofitted to drive itself, is being tested in Singapore.

Driverless cars were deployed in the Chinese and Japanese gardens in the Jurong Lake District. The system featured an online booking system and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. The buggies ran for two weekends, and carried 500 people over 400 kilometers in total.

Google self driving car

Google showed off its first real build of their self-driving vehicle prototype. The vehicle we unveiled in May was an early mockup—it didn’t even have real headlights! Since then, Google has been working on different prototypes-of-prototypes, each designed to test different systems of a self-driving car—for example, the typical “car” parts like steering and braking, as well as the “self-driving” parts like the computer and sensors. We’ve now put all those systems together in this fully functional vehicle—our first complete prototype for fully autonomous driving.

Google will be spending the holidays zipping around our test track, and they hope to see you on the streets of Northern California in the new year. Their safety drivers will continue to oversee the vehicle for a while longer, using temporary manual controls as needed while we continue to test and learn.

UK Self driving car tests

Four English locations picked to test driverless cars have been named.

Greenwich, in south-east London, and Bristol will each host a project of their own, while Coventry and Milton Keynes will share a third.

The decision was announced by the quango Innovate UK, after George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

The chancellor also announced an additional £9m in funding for the work, adding to the £10m that had been announced in July.

Bristol will host the Venturer consortium, which aims to investigate whether driverless cars can reduce congestion and make roads safer.

Its members include the insurance group Axa, and much of its focus will be on the public’s reaction to the tech as well as the legal and insurance implications of its introduction.

Greenwich is set to run the Gateway scheme. This will be led by the Transport Research Laboratory consultancy and also involves General Motors, and the AA and RAC motoring associations. It plans to carry out tests of automated passenger shuttle vehicles as well as autonomous valet parking for adapted cars.

In addition, a self-drive car simulator will make use of a photorealistic 3D model of the area to study how people react to sharing the driving of a vehicle with its computer.

The tests will last from between 18 to 36 months and begin on 1 January.

Brad Templeton has some updates

China has been running its own “DARPA Grand Challenge” style self driving car race for 6 years now. The entrants are mostly academic, and not super far along, but the rest of the world stopped having contests long ago, much to its detriment.

The mayor of Los Angeles has called for self driving cars.

Super-accurate maps will help self driving cars. Nokia is also working on high definition maps for self driving cars. Nokia makes the remarkable claim to have produced 1.2 million miles of HD Maps in 30 countries in the last 15 months. That’s remarkable because Google declared that one of their unsolved problems was that the cost of producing maps, and they were working to bring that cost down. Either Nokia/Here has made great strides in reducing that cost, or their HD Maps are not quite at the level of accuracy and detail that might be needed.

Ideo has some self driving car concepts.