- Hello Henriette! We are very pleased to have this interview with one of the most active member of the French Lab last year! So tell us more about you, what brought you to Singapore?
Before coming to Singapore, I lived in Munich and worked in the automotive industry on projects on alternative fuels, electric mobility. During that time, I developed a growing interest for urban mobility and sustainability. So the next natural step would be autonomous mobility, i.e., with driverless vehicles. Therefore, I was very excited by TUMCREATE – a German-Singaporean research institute funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Singapore – which works to develop a new autonomous mobility system for Singapore’s public transport. I joined TUMCREATE in 2017 as the Principal Investigator of the “Design for Autonomous Mobility”team. My role is to supervise the team’s research activities, seek new collaborations and integrate our findings into the overall research programme.
- Can you explain your research in a few words?
TUMCREATE is developing a new mobility system for public transport called DART – Dynamic Autonomous Road Transit – using 30-passenger electric vehicles (i.e. shuttle buses) capable of adapting to real-time travel demand. Multidisciplinary teams work together to develop this system, which in the long term aims to improve the public transport travel experience for the commuters of Singapore.
Figure 1: The multidisciplinary approach for developing DART (source: TUMCREATE)
The research of my team is focused on the interface between DART and the human user such as passengers, road users or pedestrians.
We want to answer questions like: How will people communicate with a DART vehicle at a crossing section (bearing in mind a driverless system)? How can we increase the (public?) acceptability of autonomous vehicle technology? How can we make sure this new technology includes all users e.g. people with physical or cognitive disabilities)?
We are human-centred and our methodology is based on empirical studies. Among other things, we organise participatory workshops with a variety of users to understand their expectations of autonomous mobility. We also use Virtual Reality to observe study participants in scenarios in which they interact safely with autonomous vehicles. Our findings are then translated into design concepts for the DART vehicle, the station and the communication interfaces.
Figure 2: Empirical design studies at TUMCREATE. Left: Citizen dialogue on driverless mobility; Right: Data collection in VR at a public exhibition (Source: TUMCREATE)
- What types of application(s) do your research activities lead to?
Our research is applied, meaning that – beyond our publications – our findings can be implemented in the current Singapore public transport system to improve the travel experience of passengers. For example, we propose design concepts in form of prototypes of vehicles and stations as well as Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) that can be adapted to today’s public transport. In addition, the local authorities can use our findings to maximise the acceptability of the new technology while deploying autonomous vehicles on Singapore’s streets..
Figure 3: The DART vehicle. Left: exterior view; Right: interior view including HMI (source: TUMCREATE)
One of the concrete applications is the Technical Reference 68. TUMCREATE participated in its Part 1 “Basic behaviour of AV ” with other entities (3M Singapore, HERE Technologies, nuTonomy, ST Engineering etc.). This TR is the first of its kind worldwide and provides guidelines relating to AVs’ behaviours, safety, cybersecurity, and vehicular data types and formats.
- Are you currently collaborating with French and/or Singaporean institutes?
In the past 3 years, I established collaborations with several French and Singaporean institutes. One of them was a PhD student exchange between the chair Anthropolis of the IRT-System X and my team. This collaboration resulted in publications and a participation in a public event . We also worked with the STRATE School of Design in Singapore, especially on the development of a communication system for lane prioritisation with the School’s students enrolled in its Master in Design for Smart Cities . We are currently collaborating with the Institut Image of ENSAM, l’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts et Metiers, on developing a Virtual Reality application for testing communication between DART vehicles and manually-driven cars.
Locally, we work closely with entities that are also funded by the NRF under the CREATE programme, e.g., the Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), and with the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
- What would be your advice for a young researcher coming to Singapore?
My advice would be to consider the local context in relation to the research, if applicable. In the field of design and mobility, cultural context is essential to understand the needs of the local population. Singapore is very specific because of its geography and demographics (dense multi-ethnicity population, you have on the one hand an ageing population, and on the other, one of the most tech-savvy people in the world!). Therefore, research activities must be adapted to these unique characteristics.. Having a deep understanding of the local landscape will also help in getting funding from the local authorities as they are convincedthat our research will improve Singaporeans’ quality of life.
- Which scientific field or subject would you like the FrenchLab to address through an event?
I would be happy to learn more about social sciences. For example, the research conducted by the institutes from the LKYCIC (Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities) could interest FrenchLab members. The project “Future Digital Economies and Digital Societies”, which examines the impact of digital technologies on our economies and societies, is anothergood starting point!
- So we recently learnt that you are moving back to Europe, we truly want to thank you for your motivation and your dedication to helping to grow the French Lab community. Would you please share with us what is next for you? We wish you all the best for the future!
Thank you too! I was very happy to be part of the FrenchLab! I particularly enjoyed AfterLab held every second Thursday of the month and I will miss the organising team very much. I wish you all the best too!
The next chapter of my life will begin in Brussels where I will work for the UITP, International Union of Public Transport in the field of autonomous mobility for public transport.
I’d be happy to keep in touch with the members of the FrenchLab and I hope that we will meet again!