ComfortDelGro to invest S$30m in autonomous vehicles

COMFORTDELGRO will be investing S$30 million in the research and development of autonomous driving capabilities over the next 5 years.

This research and development unit, known as Autonomous Vehicles Centre of Excellence, was set up through its S$100 million venture capital fund, said the transport company in a media statement on Wednesday (Mar 30).

C52 said that this new research centre will help the company develop a technology platform that supports using autonomous vehicles for mobility services, and eventually, deploying them commercially.

The mainboard-listed company has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Mobileye, a company that develops autonomous driving technologies that was acquired by computer parts manufacturer Intel in 2017.

Under the agreement, 2 all-electric, self-driving robotaxis will be deployed for a pilot trial in Singapore by the first half of 2023, subject to regulatory approvals.

The 2 autonomous vehicles will be equipped with Mobileye's level 4 self-driving system, which incorporates a perception system through cameras and radars, and utilises autonomous vehicle maps built by crowdsourced data.

ComfortDelGro said that this technology by Mobileye has been successfully tested in Israel, the United States, Japan, Germany and France.

The transport company will be maintaining and operating the vehicles, while Mobileye will provide training on how to maintain them.

After the trial has been completed, both companies will look for a vehicle platform, which can deploy the robotaxis commercially.

As part of the agreement, ComfortDelGro will also leverage Mobileye's autonomous vehicle technology to build new skills in driverless operations, incident response processes, fleet management and maintenance.

The centre will also look into building a technology platform to manage autonomous vehicle operations that are scalable and transferable not only in Singapore, but overseas as well.

ComfortDelGro's chairman Lim Jit Poh said that autonomous vehicle technology, though still in nascent stages of growth, will emerge as the main driving force in the future.

"The objective of this investment is not for us to get involved in the actual development of autonomous vehicle technology but to invest and leverage on autonomous vehicles to develop driverless operational procedures and trial new mobility services. We want to be ready to not just operate and maintain such vehicles, but be a forerunner in the running of such vehicles," said Lim.

The collaboration with Mobileye marks ComfortDelGro's fourth foray into this new tech frontier in Singapore.

It trialled an autonomous shuttle bus service in real traffic conditions on the National University of Singapore's Kent Ridge campus in 2019 for about slightly more than a year.

Its subsidiary SBS Transit also experimented with an on-demand shuttle bus service using autonomous vehicles on Jurong Island for 3 months in 2021.

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