Elon Musk says that someday soon, autonomous cars will be as common as self service elevators. A partnership between Dutch company 2getthere and Singapore transportation operator SMRT announced this week that they will build a version of the autonomous pod cars currently in use in AbuDhabi for use in Singapore and have them on the road by the end of this year. The venture will be known as 2getthere Asia.
In Abu Dhabi, the pods are used within Masdar City, a clean technology park that uses 100% fossil fuel free transportation. The pod system has carried more than 1,000,000 passengers since it began service in 2010. Readers may note the fine irony of a country built on profits from the oil industry using a transportation system that uses no fossil fuels.
The pods used in Abu Dhabi seat either 4 or 6 passengers. The vehicles for Singapore will have room for 24 people and will be able to accommodating up to 8,000 riders per hour. They will be used for transportation within gated communities and on college campuses. The autonomous pods are capable of returning to their station to recharge their batteries when necessary and then returning themselves to service without any human intervention.
SMRT is the second largest public transportation company in Singapore, according to Mashable. It operates several of the area’s bus and subway train networks. It also has overseas operations in Hong Kong and the Middle East. 2getthere has built a similar system for Rotterdam’s Rivium Business Park, which has six 20 passenger autonomous vehicles operating within the park. 2getthere says 2,500 people use the pods every day.
These autonomous pods are not capable of handling the cut and thrust of real world driving on public streets. They are confined to pre-designated routes where interaction with other vehicles is limited. Still, they point toward the future of transportation. All they need is more advanced sensors and software to be able to tackle more complex driving chores.
It is interesting that a Dutch company is building these vehicles for customers in the Middle East and Singapore while back home the Dutch towns of Wageningen and Ede are using similar vehicles manufactured by EasyMile, a French corporation, to provide driverless transportation for local residents. Elon Musk’s horizontal self-service elevators are already here and are only a few years away from general acceptance.