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All over the world in self-driving automobiles: Asia


So far in this series, we gave an overview of driverless-car pilot projects across the globe and broke down the testing locations in North America and Europe.

This time, we will take a closer look at where these trials are taking place in Asia. This map zooms into Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo, and charts the deployment sites for self-driving vehicles.

Where in Asia are Self-Driving Cars?

Shanghai takes a holistic approach

Last summer, Shanghai created a 100-square-kilometer closed course for testing of autonomous vehicles, called National Intelligent Connected Vehicle Pilot Zone.

The project features more than two dozen self-driving cars, including Ford Transit, Chang’an CS75, Volvo XC90, Cadillac ATS-L, Roewe e50, Volkswagen Golf, and Range Rover Evoque. Similar to the University of Michigan’s Mcity, the program hopes to fill the area completely with driverless vehicles by 2025, making it “a nice city.” But Rong Wenwei, general manager of Shanghai International Automobile City, told in June 2016, that the two pilot zones on different parts of the globe will have different strengths: “The driving situation in China is complicated. If an autonomous car can survive here, it will surely do well in the US but not necessarily the other way around. It is a challenge as well as an advantage to come up with better products.”

Hail a driverless cab in Singapore

The MIT-based NuTonomy has launched a self-driving taxi servicein a 2.5-square-mile area of Singapore. A half a dozen autonomous taxis built by Renault and Mitsubishi are available at predetermined pick-up and drop-off points.

Delphi has an on-demand ride service on a test route featuring six self-driving Audi SQ5s, covering a total of about 8 kilometers (roughly 5 miles). Currently, these taxis still require a backup driver, but eventually the company hopes to take the steering wheel out of the car altogether. 

Japan’s Olympic ambitions

Toyota has been doing trials with a modified Lexus GS on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway. The company has tested the feature that enables automated driving on highways once the car enters the on-ramp all the way through to the off-ramp. Highway Teammate can accelerate, brake and steer itself for stretches on the highway. Toyota intends to introduce the system in nationwide in 2020, but sees its technology as an assistant to the driver, not a complete replacement. “A completely autonomous car is not what we’re looking for,” said Seigo Kuzumaki, Toyota’s assistant chief safety technology officer, during a presentation to Automotive News. “Our priority is to reduce the number of accidents.”

In September 2016, Forbes reported that Japanese leaders are working to outfit Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games with a self-driving vehicle force.

Part of a government campaign to get self-driving cars really up-and-running before the 2020 summer games, the project seeks to build a multilayered “One Stop” map that features both the static and dynamic information needed for autonomous vehicles to navigate safely.

Shooing the roos in Australia

While Australia has yet to have completely “driverless” autonomous vehicles on the road, in October 2016, in a joint venture with the Victorian Government, Bosch unveiled a car with a Tesla shell and Bosch components. It took nine months and a staff of 45 people to build the vehicle, which still needs someone behind the wheel, but is designed to navigate roads with or without driver input.

Last but not the least, Volvo has been studying kangaroo behavior in an attempt to build the first kangaroo detection and collision avoidance software for cars by 2020. More than 20,000 kangaroos are hit on Australian roads each year, costing more than $75 million in claims. So, for insurers and drivers (not to mention the animals themselves) in Australia, avoiding the kangaroo will be essential to driverless and connected car technology. We can’t wait to hear more updates on this.

This completes our review of autonomous-vehicle highlights across the globe. There are many more projects planned for 2017, and we will continue to share our findings.

In the meanwhile, learn how autonomous vehicle technology could impact the insurance industry.

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