Singapore National Day 2017

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Singapore wows the car world with leading-edge models

The Lion City is positioning itself as a key innovator in automotive robotics, electric supercars and other electric vehicles

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 9:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 August, 2017, 3:13pm

Singapore’s expertise in electronic components, supply-chain management and high-rise parking are well-known in the automotive world. However, this year, the Lion City is emerging as an impressive innovator in mobility with two home-made models.

In May, the Singapore-based OTSAW Digital revealed it would supply Dubai with four-wheeled, mobile O-R3 security robots that would patrol the emirate with laser, thermal-imagery and facial- and number-plate-recognition technology.

“Powered by an advanced machine learning algorithm and 3D SLAM [simultaneous localisation and mapping] technology, the O-R3 navigates its surroundings perceptively,” its maker says, describing the

O-R3 as “the world’s first autonomous security robot with an aerial [drone] and ground collaborative surveillance system”. The machines will arrive in Dubai by the end of this year. A unit of ActiV Technology, OTSAW Digital is also “in discussions” about similar products “with several government agencies and corporations in Singapore and all over the world”, says its spokeswoman, Jasmine Tan.

“We plan to ship 1,000 units next year globally,” the company says, adding that it also has an indoor security robot in the works – and also provides “apps and IoT [internet of things] solutions for industries such as food and beverage, smart homes and video conferencing”.

OTSAW Digital also has a strong Hong Kong connection.

“We have an office in Hong Kong and we are open to partnerships in the southern China region,” Tan says. “We are also evaluating the possibility of listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange in the near future.”

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Vanda Electrics has wowed the car world with three products. Its 3.52-metre Ant truck can carry a tonne of logistics or municipal waste and run for 100km and up to 40km/h on a 48-volt high-efficiency AC-inducted electric motor with fast-charging lithium-titanate batteries. The company also launched its “sassy”, lithium-battery powered stainless steel and aluminium Motochimp electric town bike with a gearless UU Motor 350-watt motor that is supposed to charge in an hour “with a standard three-pin plug that fits snugly under your seat”.

Jasmine Tan, spokeswoman, OTSAW Digital

Vanda Electrics launched the Motochimp at the Shenzhen Industrial Design Fair, last November, and then presented it at the Geneva motor show in March, next to its Dendrobium supercar. Named after a Singaporean orchid, the striking electric two-seater has since impressed the Salon Automobile de Monaco in April and delighted Britain’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. Promising 100km/h in under three seconds and a top speed of over 320km/h on 20- and 21-inch wheels, the Dendrobium “is the culmination of a dream”, according Vanda Electrics CEO, Larissa Tan.

“Our design team has had sketches of an electric hypercar on the drawing board since the mid-90s, but that vision was many years ahead of its time. As electric technology has advanced, we have been able to revisit this vision and now, as we launch our revolutionary global e-mobility strategy, the timing is finally right for us to take the wraps off a halo model.”

Vanda Electrics’ technical partner is Williams Advanced Engineering, the technology and engineering services division of the Williams Group. The Dendrobium’s in-house-designed automatic roof and doors open in a synchronised manner, which “improves access to the teardrop-shaped cockpit”, the marque says.

Fitted with a single-speed gearbox and differential at the front and a multi-speed gearbox and differential at the rear, the first model is expected to hit the roads by 2020.

Singapore is a fine place for up-and-coming car makers, marques say.

The Lion City is “a technology hub where top talents in this field can be readily recruited, therefore it serves as a hub and springboard for the Asean and Apac regions as well”, says OTSAW Digital. “Come to Singapore and understand the existing trials and regulations of autonomous cars that are going on now.”

The city has also road mapped its plans to become a “Smart Nation”, with a “digital strategy for the future, that includes the development of robotics technology”, says OTSAW’s Jasmine Tan. Start-ups can also apply for funding to set up bases in Singapore, she adds.

“Robotics will form the fourth industrial revolution by 2020, and Singapore is in the works to build a strong eco-system to attract all the R&D, upstream and downstream supporting companies and suppliers to set up bases in Singapore,” Tan explains.

“Importantly, this is also part of Singapore’s future-proof economic plans and transformation, to continue to scale the technology value chain and increase productivity of the economy, where robotics will help to drive and shape the economy to be outcome-based, rather than headcount-based when major corporations or government bodies

award contracts.”