NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and Volvo have unveiled the world’s first ‘full size, fully autonomous, fully electric' bus, the company announced recently.

Plans are in place to test the fully autonomous Volvo bus at NTU and to subsequently extend the route beyond the NTU campus.

The first of two Volvo electric buses will soon begin trials at the NTU Smart Campus before being extended to public roads, it’s been announced.

The buses are 12-metre single-deck Volvo electrics with a full capacity of close to 80 passengers, Volvo says.

This is a key milestone in NTU and Volvo’s development programme under the university’s partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to develop and conduct autonomous vehicle bus trials for fixed route and scheduled services, which was announced in October 2016.

The Volvo 7900 electric bus is equipped with numerous sensors and navigation controls managed by a comprehensive artificial intelligence (AI) system, it states.

Autonomous bus_1 (2).jpg

Ensuring maximum safety and reliability, the AI system is also protected with industry-leading cybersecurity measures to prevent unwanted cyber intrusions.

The Volvo bus is the first of two that has undergone preliminary rounds of rigorous testing at the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU (CETRAN).

Plans are in place to test the bus at NTU and to subsequently extend the route beyond the NTU campus.

Autonomous bus_2.jpg 


NTU President Professor Subra Suresh, said: "This fully autonomous electric bus will play a role in shaping the future of public transportation that is safe, efficient, reliable and comfortable for all commuters. It will soon be tested on the NTU Smart Campus, which has been home to a number of innovations as a living testbed for technologies that impact the human condition and the quality of life."

"This research project not only involves cutting-edge science, technology and AI, but is also an excellent example of close partnership among academia, industry and government agencies in translating basic research into products and services for the benefit of Singapore and beyond. And we have a top team of local and international partners in this multi-disciplinary collaboration," he said.

2019 SG SPECTRUMDSC08936.jpg

The electric bus has 36 seats and provides a quiet operation with zero emissions. It also requires 80 per cent less energy than an equivalent sized diesel bus, it’s claimed.

This is Volvo’s first fully autonomous and electric bus in public transportation anywhere in the world. For this trial of a full-size single-deck bus Volvo chose NTU Singapore as its global partner.

Håkan Agnevall, president Volvo Buses, said: "We are very proud to be showcasing our electric bus featuring autonomous driving technology. It represents a key milestone for the industry and is an important step towards our vision for a cleaner, safer and smarter city.  The journey towards full autonomy is undoubtedly a complex one, and our valued partnership with the NTU and LTA is critical in realising this vision, as is our commitment to applying a safety-first approach."



The NTU and Volvo partnership is part of the collaboration between the University and LTA under NTU’s living lab platform. The platform assesses technology maturity and road-worthiness, including the certification of technologies for deployment on public roads.

Lam Wee Shann, chief Innovation and Technology officer, Land Transport Authority, said: "The launch of the autonomous bus for on-road trials marks an important milestone in the joint project between LTA and NTU Singapore to develop autonomous buses for fixed routes and scheduled services. It is in line with Singapore’s vision of deploying autonomous vehicles to improve accessibility and connectivity for commuters. We will continue to work closely with NTU to facilitate the safe and robust testing of the autonomous vehicles."

The bus is undergoing rigorous tests at CETRAN. Jointly set up by NTU, LTA and JTC, CETRAN is a centre dedicated to research and testing of autonomous vehicles. It replicates various elements of Singapore’s urban road condition, such as traffic signals, multiple bus stops and pedestrian crossings, and tropical conditions, such as driving through heavy rain and partially flooded roads. Operated by NTU scientists, CETRAN is located on the NTU Smart Campus in the Jurong Innovation District.



The bus comes with Volvo Autonomous Research Platform software that is connected to key controls such as its navigation system, as well as multiple sensors.

This includes light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced global navigation satellite system that uses real-time kinematics. This is like any global positioning system (GPS), but uses multiple data sources to give pin-point location accuracy of up to one centimetre, Volvo states.

The system is also hooked up to an ‘inertial management unit’, which acts like a two-in-one gyroscope and accelerometer, measuring the lateral and angular rate of the bus. This will improve its navigation when going over uneven terrain and around sharp bends, ensuring a smoother ride, it says.


These sensors and GPS platforms will be managed by a comprehensive AI system that was developed by NTU researchers. It not only operates the various sensors and GPS systems on the bus, but also enables it to navigate autonomously through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions, it explains.

The AI system is protected with industry-leading cybersecurity and firewall measures to prevent unwanted intrusions for maximum safety and reliability, it’s claimed.

15th Annual Car Show (23).png 


As part of the public trials, Singapore’s public transport operator SMRT will play a key role in determining the roadworthiness of autonomous vehicles on public roads.

While plans are in place to test the first bus on the NTU campus, a second autonomous 12-metre Volvo 7900 electric bus will undergo tests at a bus depot managed by SMRT.

It will provide a real-world environment to assess the vehicle’s ability to autonomously navigate into vehicle washing bays and park safely at charging areas, Volvo explains.

Tan Kian Heong, managing director Buses & Roads Services and senior vice president of human resources, said: "SMRT is pleased to support the research and development of these eco-friendly autonomous electric buses. As part of the autonomous electric bus trial, we will leverage on our expertise in operations and maintenance of buses, and work closely with our partners to test the command and control system required to operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles. This will help us to stay future-ready with the latest urban mobility solutions to enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport network."


Another partner, ABB - a pioneering technology leader in digital industries and world leader in fast-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles - will develop a smart fast-charging solution. Based on the OppCharge concept, ABB’s HVC 300P fast charge system is ideally suited for autonomous charging in bus depots, as well as in running traffic.

Offering a charge power of 300kW via a pantograph mounted on the infrastructure, the fast chargers will recharge a battery in just three to six minutes. This will enable charging during the layover times at the end of the bus route, without impacting normal operations.

Tarak Mehta, president of Electrification Products division, said: "ABB is committed to pioneering technological innovations for a sustainable future. We are extremely excited to collaborate on such a landmark project which marks a positive step toward the electrification of public transport across the region and beyond."


ABOUT NTU Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the engineering, business, science, humanities, arts and social sciences, and graduate colleges, it states.

It also has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes: the National Institute of Education; S Rajaratnam School of International Studies; Earth Observatory of Singapore; and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres, such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N).

Ranked 12th in the world, NTU has been placed the world’s top young university for the past five years, it states. The University’s main campus is frequently listed among the Top 15 most beautiful university campuses in the world and it has 57 Green Mark-certified (equivalent to LEED-certified) building projects comprising more than 230 buildings, of which 95 per cent are certified Green Mark Platinum.

Apart from its main campus, NTU also has a campus in Singapore’s healthcare district.

2019 SG SPECTRUMDSC09435.jpg 


Volvo Buses is one of the world’s leading bus manufacturers, with a strong focus on vehicles and systems for long-term sustainable public transport, it states.

The product range includes complete transport solutions, city buses, intercity buses and tourist coaches, as well as services in financing, vehicle servicing, vehicle diagnostics and traffic information.

Volvo Buses has delivered more than 5,000 electrified buses worldwide, it says. Volvo Buses is part of Volvo Group, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of trucks, buses, construction machines and marine and industrial engines.

RELATED (21).png

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ABC e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook