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Singapore Develops Driverless Solutions for the Elderly

March 05, 2019

From last-mile deliveries to mobility for senior citizens, autonomous vehicles have several use cases that are beneficial for growing communities. Focusing on the latter application, self-driving units could help the elderly navigate cities safely.

A country currently looking to leveraging autonomous vehicles for such benefits is Singapore. Like Japan, the location must address its aging population by providing seamless and accessible transportation options. Moreover, driverless cars may help ease local issues surrounding a potential shortage in bus drivers.

According to Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, Singapore would need to increase the number of bus operators by 13 percent over the next three years in order to meet demand.

MooVita Autonomous Pods

At the moment, self-driving startup MooVita is developing driverless pods for senior citizens residing in Singapore. Designed for public transportation, the units are about half the size of passenger cars. MooVita is in the process of conducting trials at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University – a unique urban testing site. Equipped with traffic signs, intersections, road obstacles and crosswalks, the area mimics real scenarios for self-driving vehicles to overcome.

Launched in 2016, the testing center was built with Singapore's Land Transportation Authority (LTA). Complete with a rain simulator and flood zone area, the site is closely monitored by seven CCTV cameras. Footage is pushed to an LTA intelligence department for evaluation.

"In order for the public to know that this is different to conventional cars, it needs to be noticeably different on first impressions, and stand out in comparison to other cars," explained Dillip Limbu, CEO of MooVita.

Regulations for self-driving cars in Singapore are similar with most countries exploring the technology. By law, a safety driver must be present inside the vehicles. Speed limits are also capped at 19 mph.

But unlike other locations with outdated infrastructure, the country is well prepared for the upcoming era of autonomous vehicles. Based on KPMG's Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, Singapore ranks second in overall readiness for driverless cars – just behind the Netherlands. When it comes to consumer acceptance, the country ranks first, which suggests active promotion of the technology.

Solutions for an Aging Population

Driverless pods that specifically serve the elderly and individuals with medical disabilities are viable solutions for the country. Singapore is known to cater to busy, hard-working lifestyles, which can be difficult to keep up with at times. Instead of requiring senior citizens to adapt to a faster pace of living, autonomous vehicle services with special features, such as separate pick-up and drop-off points, public stations with ramps and enlarged screens inside the pods, may provide retirees with relaxed alternatives.

"Singapore is aging more rapidly and [at] a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, and so we have a situation where, in order to provide mobility for seniors, it would be really advantageous to have such technology available," said Subodh Mhaisalkar, Professor at Nanyang's Energy Research Institute.

Source: Future Car

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