Sentosa to trial self-driving vehicles from early-2016

Sentosa to trial self-driving vehicles from early-2016

The trial will start in January 2016 and the public could get to ride on the driverless vehicles from as early as March or April.

SINGAPORE: From beach trams and buses, to segways and the latest intra-island cable car, there are a myriad of transport options already available for visitors to head to Sentosa Island - and choices are set to grow.


Sentosa's intra-island cable car. (Photo: Olivia Siong)

Come January 2016, Sentosa will be testing out self-driving vehicles to provide on-demand point-to-point shuttle services. The project is a collaboration between Sentosa, the Transport Ministry and ST Kinetics.

Visitors will be able to call for the shuttle on their smartphones or at information kiosks around the island. They will then be ferried to their destination of choice on Sentosa.

A WELCOMED IDEA

Visitors welcomed the idea. Said 28-year-old Adrian Buang, a Singaporean visiting the island: "It reminds me of Jurassic Park actually! It's hassle free. Basically anybody can just grab and go."

"People come back to Sentosa even though they have been here before,” said Vyomesh Chandan, 41, visiting from Cambodia. “I'm sure I'd want to come back for that, sounds exciting enough."

"It'll be more convenient for people with children especially, because going up and down from the buses or rails etcetera may not be as convenient as compared to personalised vehicle going in,” said another visitor from Singapore, Samantha Lee, 27.

41-year-old Andrea Liu, living in Singapore with two kids says it will help with long queues.

"Having these trams and buses are great, but sometimes you're in long queues and you want to go to a specific destination. If (driverless cars are) available around the island ... (we'll) have more choice in transporting us around Sentosa," she said.

TRIAL TO BE DONE IN THREE PHASES

Sentosa says the trial will be done in three phases. The first could last about three to four months and will take place on service roads with minimal traffic.

Phase 2 will be carried out on service roads near Sentosa's beach areas, which see light human and vehicular traffic. This phase will likely take three to four months as well and is also when the public will start being allowed onboard.

Phase 3 will then take about a year, when the self-driving vehicles will ply actual roads with regular traffic. The trial will also be a time to work out how these vehicles adapt to conditions on the island.

"We see a lot of slopes that are in Sentosa,” said Mr William Ng, Assistant Director of Operations Planning and Development for Sentosa Leisure Management. “So basically based on electric vehicles we will need to test whether they can actually overcome the slope factors, the gradient factors.

“Also the weather, because we are very near to the sea itself, you're talking about heavy rains and strong winds."

There are also plans to boost Wi-Fi coverage along routes plied by the vehicles. This is expected to improve safety by allowing data from the vehicles to be transmitted to the command centre for monitoring.

"The AV (autonomous vehicle) will actually use this Wi-Fi to transmit data to our command centre whereby they can monitor where the AVs are using GPS or they can do data analysis be it live video streaming to see where the AVs are looking at," said Mr Ng.

Sentosa will decide whether the driverless vehicles will become a permanent feature after the trial. It expects there to be productivity gains in the long run.

The entire study at Sentosa is expected to last for two years. The insights will also help authorities evaluate the possibility of deploying similar self-driving shuttle systems for intra-town travel in other parts of Singapore in the future.

Source: CNA/ek

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