In an effort to create a "smart nation" as well as to fascinate more tourists, a group in Singapore has introduced its self-driving golf carts that are aimed to transport visitors in different locations. 

In trial period - lasted six days - the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have successfully tried self-driving golf carts that carried about 500 tourists around paths used by bicyclists and pedestrians. Reports say the experiment is one of the highlights of the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. 

Members of the group also tested out the online booking system they developed which aims to allow visitors to schedule their pickups and drop-offs in 10 various stations spread around the garden. The system is believed to boast the capacity to automatically route and redeploy the carts to a public garden in Singapore to cater all the visitors' requests. When guests got out, these autonomous vehicles were then quickly redeployed and routed to accommodate other requests.

While these golf carts are instrumented, the developers say, they are certainly not as heavily instrumented as the DARPA vehicles and they are generally much less heavy as the Google car.

"We would like to use robot cars to make transportation available to everyone," stated Daniela Rus, the senior conference paper author and a professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "The idea is, if you need a ride, you make a booking, maybe using your smartphone or maybe on the Internet, and the car just comes."

According to reports, of the 500 tourists who were part of the experiments, 98 percent said they would certainly make use of the vehicles again. However, 95 percent responded to a brief questionnaire they would be very likely to go to the gardens if the vehicles were a permanent fixture.

"There are still issues that remain research topics and challenges for self-driving cars... Today's robots cannot do 'silent' communication the way humans do in road situations," Rus told the press. 

Joining Rus on the conference paper are Marcel Ang, National University of Singapore's professor of mechanical engineering; Emilio Frazzoli, MIT's aeronautics and astronautics professor; along with 16 SMART students, postdocs, and staff members from Asia and United States.

SMART is a joint effort between National Research Foundation and MIT.

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