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Singapore trials autonomous public transport systems

Posted: 13 Oct 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:self-driving vehicle? autonomous? transport? Singapore? pilot?

Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) and port operator PSA Corp. Sunday signed an MoU to jointly develop autonomous truck platooning technology for transporting cargo between port terminals. The ministry also signed an MoU with the Sentosa Development Corp. and ST Engineering to trial self-driving shuttle services across Sentosa. With this, Singapore's government marked a key milestone in its broader transport plan for the country.

The MOT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) believe that the use of technology can significantly ease traffic congestion in Singapore and afford various other benefits. Their vision:

  • Ease congestion: Driverless vehicles can travel at an optimal speed that makes traffic conditions predictable and manageable.
  • Trucking at night: Cargo delivery can take place at night and other off-peak hours.
  • Better quality of life: On-demand services will help make the elderly and disabled more mobile and less dependent for safe transport.
  • Reduction in number of vehicles: On-demand car sharing enabled by the use of Uber-like apps can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and therefore traffic congestion.
  • Parks instead of parking: Fewer vehicles on the road means that some of the parking lots will become available for other public uses, such as parks.
  • Trip planning: Use of apps will enable better trip planning, including such features as setting up bus stop alarms and checking space availability on buses.

Singapore is 700km2 with a population of about 5.5 million. The population density that is typical of the many major cities in Asia has resulted in traffic management challenges. To address this challenge, Singapore a long encouraged public transport over private car traffic. For instance, if you want to own a car in Singapore you have to pay a "certificate of entitlement" fee, which is close to the price of the car itself. At the same time, public transport infrastructure is inexpensive and often discounted through various schemes.

Singapore's plan for an autonomous transport system, driven by the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore (CARTS), is a logical expansion on the idea of engaging the population in ride sharing and discouraging private car ownership. CARTS is focusing on the following tracks in line with the vision above:

  • Fixed and scheduled services: Mass transport for intra and inter-town travel on a fixed route and scheduled basis.
  • Point-to-point, on-demand services: Shared services with dynamic routing, for point-to-point, first- and last-mile type of travel.
  • Freight: Carriage of goods for long-distance delivery.
  • Utility: Utility operations like road sweepers.

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