Singapore accelerates towards deployment of driverless vehicles with two new trial projects

Nurul Azliah Aripin
Lifestyle Lead

Singapore has taken a big step closer towards achieving its long-term vision of incorporating driverless vehicles into the land transport system.

On Monday (Oct 12), two new trial projects of driverless vehicles were launched after the signing of memorandum of understandings (MOUs) between the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and PSA Singapore, as well as between MOT, Sentosa Development Corporation and ST Engineering.

“Self-driving” trials began in August 2014 in one-north as part of the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI), which was set up by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

The public can take part in the new trials between 1 and 14 December at Gardens by the Bay by hitching a ride in a driverless car called the Auto Rider. 

According to a joint news release by MOT and the Land Transport Authority, “self-driving vehicles can radically transform land transportation in Singapore to address our two key constraints – land and manpower.”

When asked whether driverless vehicles will soon become a reality within Singapore’s public transportation network, Pang Kin Keong, the permanent secretary for MOT, said that it could be “sooner than 2030” due to the “incredible acceleration” in technology.

At Gardens by the Bay, the futuristic and compact-looking Auto Rider will be available for free rides every day from 4pm to 6pm. Each ride takes 15 minutes, and there are eight slots available for the public to choose from. The Auto Rider is air-conditioned and can hold up to 10 people. At the end of the ride, passengers are required to provide feedback through a survey form.

Interior of the Auto Rider, a self-driving vehicle available for public trials at Gardens by the Bay this December.

The slots available for Auto Rider rides are 4pm, 4:15pm, 4:30pm, 4:45pm, 5pm, 5:15pm, 5:30pm, 5:45pm.

Interior of the Auto Rider, a self-driving vehicle available for public trials at Gardens by the Bay this December.

Driverless shuttles in Sentosa

MOT, Sentosa Development Corporation and ST Engineering signed MOUs to conduct tests for a fleet of “on-demand self-driving shuttles”, which will complement the island’s existing bus, tram and monorail network.

These driverless shuttles will allow guests to travel around the island by calling for them via smartphones or information kiosks. The public trials for this will take place after 2018, once an engineering study determining the technical requirements for seamless navigation is completed.

Driverless cargo trucks

MOT and PSA Singapore signed MOUs to develop an autonomous truck platooning system, which will allow one driver to transport up to four times more cargo.

The technology will involve one human-driven truck guiding one or more driverless trucks behind it, according to a joint release.

Graphic showing how autonomous truck platooning technology works. 

MOT and PSA Singapore will be issuing request for proposals in December to call for interested parties to design and carry out the trials over a three-year period.

According to a joint release by MOT and PSA Singapore, the technology will help ease the shortage of manpower in the trucking industry and improve traffic flow during peak periods by moving more haulage activities to off-peak hours.

Regulations on driverless vehicles

As driverless vehicles in the country are not ready for public deployment, there are no regulations in place for driverless vehicles in Singapore at the moment. However, a regulatory framework is in place to allow testing of such vehicles.

“CARTS (Committee on Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore) is currently looking at regulatory and liability framework that needs to be put in place for the day when we actually have driverless vehicles on a day-to-day basis,” said Pang.