SINGAPORE: A Request for Information (RFI) has been issued by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Friday (Jun 5), seeking views on how to incorporate autonomous vehicles (AVs) in mass transport services.
LTA will study if AVs, such as autonomous buses, can be deployed as a mass-transport service that operates on fixed routes and scheduled timings, it said in the press release.
The RFI will also explore if a network of demand-responsive shared vehicles can form a new mobility system for intra-town and inter-town travel. This can potentially serve as a convenient transport mode within towns, resulting in a lower reliance on private cars, LTA added.
Dr Park Byung Joon, head of the Urban Transport Management Programme at SIM University, also noted: "It can relieve some of the manpower issues we have at the moment. That is the kind of very short-term benefit.
"In the long run, the autonomous vehicles potential is really enormous. If we get to the point where every part of Singapore can be linked by autonomous vehicle by on demand, then of course more people have reason not to own a car, and join in the sharing economy. But we are talking about sometime later, because to do that, there is a lot of infrastructure that we have to build to achieve that."
That includes having a detailed database of Singapore roads.
Said Dr Park: "People have some kind of a wrong perception about autonomous vehicles. They think this is only about the GPS system and navigation system using the sensors, so you know the area around.
"Actually, it is not just that. We need to have a database on every single inch of road and (which) contains all that information. Right now, we have the sensor technology and we have GPS system, but in terms of building the database of the road, we have barely started.
"If you imagine Google Maps, for example, Google Maps just shows you the road, as a straight line. But actually, if you drive around, some of the road gets wider and smaller, and some roads have undulations, and some roads curve in a little bit different way ... if you navigate around safely, of course the computer needs to know precisely every single bit of this kind of road information."
Dr Park thinks having driverless vehicles ply fixed routes may be a more feasible option in the near future.
The RFI forms part of the efforts under the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI), which was launched in August last year to oversee and manage AV research, test-bedding, and the development of applications and solutions by industry partners and stakeholders.
LTA expects to conclude the submission of RFI proposals by the third quarter of 2015, and it will then assess the need to call for a Request for Proposal (RFP) for shortlisted proposers to participate in.
“We are excited at the many possibilities of how AV technology can be harnessed. With the ability to self-drive, AVs have the potential to optimise road capacity by moving in a compact, systematic manner. They can also provide greater connectivity for first and last mile travel and facilitate the efficient sharing of vehicles, said LTA Chief Executive Chew Men Leong.
LTA said selected proposals could be granted approval to test their driverless vehicle concepts in one-north. The test-bed comprises a six-kilometre-long network of roads - connecting the Biopolis, Fusionopolis and Mediapolis.
The agency also said two proposals have been received to conduct AV proof-of-concept tests in one-north as of May.
LTA added that it is working with Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) and A*STAR's Institute for Infocomm Research to evaluate their proposed test programmes and routes.
But before any on-road trials can take place, authorities said applicants must complete a demonstration test first.
A*STAR's Institute for Infocomm Research told Channel NewsAsia that some of the driverless vehicle technologies it is working on include vehicle and pedestrian detection and junction navigation, which aims to improve the safety of road users.