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LTA unveils master plan to build an intelligent transport network

The master plan, named Smart Mobility 2030, aims to improve Singapore's transport systems and enhance commuters' travel experience.

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday (Aug 6) launched its master plan to improve Singapore’s transport systems and enhance commuters’ travel experience with the latest technologies.

The master plan, named Smart Mobility 2030, outlines how the country will develop its Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) over the next 15 years, LTA said.

The plan, launched jointly with the Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore (ITSS), has three key strategies: Implementing smart mobility solutions to facilitate better travel for commuters and transport management; developing and adopting ITS standards for the sharing of accurate transport data and the provision of reliable, timely and relevant information services; and establishing close partnerships and fostering co-creation between the public and private sectors.

Said Mr Chew Hock Yong, Chief Executive of LTA: “In the past, ITS were often infrastructure-reliant. Today, greater emphasis is placed on data collection, analytics and the availability of relevant, useful information on the move.

“It is crucial to ensure that Singapore can effectively tap on technological advancements and map out the overall direction for ITS developments in the next 15 years."

INFORMATION MUST BE SIMPLE, RELEVANT, ACCURATE

The blueprint published on Wednesday, a 44-page document, highlights ways in which high-quality information can be provided for diverse users, with interactive elements, to create a safer and better travel experience: For example, accurate information on crowd levels in buses and trains, warnings delivered to drivers via in-vehicle devices so some accidents can be avoided, and perhaps even driverless buses to ferry commuters within certain areas.

Information provided to users has to be simple, relevant and accurate, the master plan noted. While on-site signs, websites and radio broadcasts would continue to be the main channels to disseminate advisories, platforms for targeted and localised information — such as through smartphones, personal navigation devices and in-vehicle systems — will become more common.

In future, vehicles will be more connected with one another, and possibly with the authorities’ back-end operations for faster response to incidents. Alternative modes of transport can be deployed during a train breakdown, for instance, and motorists nearby can be alerted. But for vehicles to communicate with one another, open in-vehicle standards have to be adopted, with standard interfaces and connection protocols between smart devices required.

Experts speaking to TODAY noted the benefits — for example, congestion management — that can be reaped with new technologies such as the future satellite-based Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system.

The Intelligent Transportation Society Singapore was formed in 2001 to provide a forum for academics, public and private organisations, among others, to exchange ideas and information on intelligent transportation systems.

National University of Singapore professor Lee Der Horng, who is a council member of the society, felt the next-generation ERP system would be a game-changer, enabling distance-based pricing of road usage. This, in turn, could allow the authorities to be “a bit more lenient with ownership control”, he said. Other benefits offered by satellite-based ERP lie in parking enforcement, and the potential to guide drivers on routes to take between places, Prof Lee added.

Dr Alexander Erath of the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Centre for Global Environmental Sustainability said measures to improve public transport should be the priority. Data from travel smartcards is a “wonderful source to get insights” for researchers, and Dr Erath suggested other forms of data could also be collected and shared with commuters through smartphone applications.

Existing and new technologies could also be exploited to improve the experience of pedestrians and cyclists, and in ticketing — such as removing the need to swipe travel cards on buses and at gantries, he suggested.

The plans laid out are fairly ambitious, he said. Commuters “shouldn’t expect less-crowded trains or roads because of intelligent transport systems, but more abilities to know how to avoid (congestion)”, he added.

More extensive and reliable data can, nonetheless, allow the public to better utilise their time, said Prof Lee. Smartphones today can provide information on bus arrivals, but not how crowded they are, for instance. With the extra information, “if peak hour is not over and I’m flexible, I may choose to stay home to do other work before leaving to take public transport”, he said. “The same applies when driving.”