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Sentosa could be a trial site for driverless car fleet

Sentosa is in talks with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to roll out a trial of self-driving buggies.

SINGAPORE: The plan to have driverless cars in Singapore is on track - with the resort island of Sentosa being a potential trial site. Sentosa is in talks with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to roll out the trial, which involves self-driving buggies. This was revealed at a World Cities Summit forum on Tuesday (June 3).

The Land Transport Authority says the Jurong Lake area is another site slated for a trial at the end of the year.

Professor Carlo Ratti, the Director of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology's SENSEable City Lab says Singapore could be first in the world to test a fleet of autonomous vehicles. He says the next step is to develop technology to manage fleets in the city for people to share cars.
"The good thing about driverless cars is you don't have a driver who may be tired, who is falling asleep, drunk, so potentially we have a great opportunity to make our cars and our roads much safer."

There are of course, challenges to having driverless vehicles on the roads. Some key questions: Who is liable if there is an accident? How do passengers make claims? Do laws have to be changed to accommodate such vehicles in Singapore?

These issues aside, the Land Transport Authority says driverless buses are a possibility.

"The use of driverless buses basically will remove major risks in terms of the heavy reliance of manpower. Going forward, (it could be a) future mode of transport, maybe in a new town that is designed right from the beginning to facilitate fewer cars that can be used in the form of a fleet of autonomous vehicles, to bring people (about) within the town," explained the Deputy Chief Executive of the Land Transport Authority, Mr Chua Chong Kheng.

Another idea floated at the forum was that of fitting road-rage sensors in cars. The device would have cameras to monitor road conditions outside the car, as well as the driver inside, and the steering wheel would be fitted with sensors to read the driver's pulse, as well as pressure on the horn. Studies for such a contraption are being carried out.   

Said Prof Ratti: "What we find very interesting is how (a driver's mood) can change based on road conditions, based on whether you are in a traffic jam, the condition of the city or the street - it actually affects your frustration."

Attending the forum were representatives from cities such as Auckland, New Zealand; Toyoma, Japan; and Brisbane, Australia, who shared their experiences on how they made their cities' transportation experience better for residents.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown, for example, shared that events such as hackathons were held to encourage commuters to develop applications to help fellow travellers. For instance, there was an app developed that not only tells commuters the time when public transport would arrive, but the surrounding bars and cafes should people want to grab a bite or drink while waiting, he said.

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