SINGAPORE: Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District will be the first areas in Singapore to have self-driving buses and shuttles plying their roads come 2022.
Three towns in these areas will be planned with autonomous vehicle (AV)-friendly features, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on Wednesday (Nov 22) at the opening of Singapore's first AV test centre, called the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of AVs (CETRAN), and operated by Nanyang Technological University.
Starting from 2022, self-driving buses will be deployed in these three towns during off-peak periods. At the same time, autonomous shuttles will provide first-last mile connection for residents and workers in these districts, Mr Khaw said.
The autonomous scheduled services will complement human-driven public buses and will initially travel on less crowded roads, said the Ministry of Transport and Land Transport Authority (LTA) in a joint press release.
LTA is also exploring the use of self-driving buses for express transit links to connect the North-East Line to the North-South, East-West and Thomson East Coast Lines. Commuters will be able to hail the services via their mobile phones, it added.
“We expect that the AVs will greatly enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport system, particularly for the old, families with the young, and the less mobile,” Mr Khaw said.
“More importantly, we can gain further insights into how we can develop new towns or refurbish existing ones for the safe mass deployment of AVs.”
Mr Khaw said a Request for Information was launched on Wednesday to seek feedback from industry and research institutions on the key requirements and enablers needed for successful pilot deployments in these towns.
The Request for Information will be open until May 31 next year, he added.
On the opening of the AV test centre, Mr Khaw said it will provide “a safe, controlled and configurable testing environment” for developers to trial their technologies using a range of simulated on-road scenarios, with advanced test equipment like pedestrian simulators.
Other scenarios include aggressive driving and interactions with other road users, including cyclists and users of personal mobility devices, he added.
To monitor the progress of AV testing, LTA has installed seven 360-degrees closed-circuit television cameras at the centre. Real-time footage from these cameras will be streamed back to LTA's Autonomous Vehicle Monitoring and Evaluation System, known as OLIVE.
Mr Khaw noted that ST Kinetics and NTU ERI@N plan to start their autonomous bus trials at the new centre next year.
CETRAN programme director Niels de Boer told reporters that the ongoing tests being conducted by nuTonomy and Delphi Automotive at one-north is considered “milestone one” in the journey of deploying self-driving vehicles on Singapore’s roads.
With the new circuit, Mr de Boer said testing of autonomous vehicles here is considered “milestone two”, and “milestone three involves testing without a safety driver”.
Another NTU professor Subodh Gautam Mhaisalksr, the executive director of ERI@N, revealed in a separate interview that both nuTonomy and Delphi will be conducting tests at the centre “soon”.
Another “five to six” companies are expected to conduct tests at the centre in the next six months, he added.
Additional reporting by Loke Kok Fai