The autonomous vehicle race is on, with car giants teaming up with the Singapore Government to transform public transport by using autonomous vehicle technology for buses, taxis and its trucking industries.
Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) is aiming to migrate to self-driving technology across the country to drive efficiencies in public transport and heavy vehicle industries.
According to the Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng, Singapore is currently faced with a driver shortage across the country and the Government is hoping this can be resolved by the deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs).
“The Government is focussed on deploying self-driving technology because it has the potential to dramatically improve public transport,” says Meng.
Singapore has been working on various self-driving pilot projects that includes public buses, self-driving personal mobility devices, driverless minibuses and truck platooning.
An autonomous public buses project developed by ST Kinetics and LTA, is testing autonomous buses with the aim of being able to respond to all typical scenarios faced by bus feeder services.
The vehicles will be integrated into two 40-seat electric buses that can be deployed to serve fixed and scheduled services. It will have GPS, sensors for precise positioning and perception sensors to provide 2D and 3D maps for obstacle avoidance along with radars and sonars to detect vehicles and pedestrians up to 200 metres ahead.
LTA’s Chief Technology Officer Lam Wee Shann says, “Singapore’s need for high-capacity vehicles to address commuters’ peak-hour demands presents an opportunity for companies such as ST Kinetics to develop autonomous buses to address this latent demand”.
Singapore universities and research institutes have joined forces with local car manufacturing companies to further develop a number of autonomous vehicle projects.
Since 2010, National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have collaborated to test a fleet of self-driving golf-buggies at the NUS campus.
In 2015, an electric passenger car was retrofitted with AV technology and tested on public roads at Singapore’s One-North district.
A first prototype of a four-wheel self-driving personal mobility device was also unveiled for public trial in 2016. The device was developed to increase mobility for the elderly, youth and people living with disabilities, with the intention of enhancing their experience using the existing public transportation system.
Singapore became the first country in the world in September 2016, when nuTonomy, a developer of autonomous vehicle technology, ran a trial of its mobility-on-demand driverless taxis. A small sample of customers were invited to test the service, using a smartphone app to book a ride within a 2.5 square kilometre radius of the One-North district. nuTonomy says it plans to have a fully driverless fleet of 75 taxis by 2018.
In January 2017, Singapore Ministry of Transport, PSA Corporation, Scania and Toyota formed a partnership to develop and test an autonomous truck platooning system for use on Singapore’s public roads over a three-year period. Truck platooning involves a human-driven truck leading a convoy of driverless trucks.
According to the Secretary for Transport and Chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport, Pang Kin Keong, Singapore is currently faced with a truck driver shortage and the autonomous platooning system will go a long way to help meet demand.
“We face a shortage of truck drivers. In this regard, truck platooning technology presents us with an opportunity to boost productivity in both the port sector and the trucking industry,” says Keong.