SINGAPORE: Driverless buses may soon ply the roads of Singapore, under a new trial to test out such buses for commutes between Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and CleanTech Park, and possibly even to Pioneer MRT station.
The trial – the first in Singapore with driverless buses – will be conducted by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and NTU's Energy Research Institute, under an agreement signed at the opening of the Singapore International Transport Congress and Exhibition on Wednesday (Oct 19).
The agreement follows a Request for Information exercise called by LTA in June last year on autonomous mobility concepts.
NTU is one of the first research institutions to have trialled a self-driving electric shuttle within the campus and CleanTech Park since 2013. It will now translate that know-how to develop two electric hybrid buses, equipping the vehicles with sensors and other capabilities to allow them to operate without a driver.
The 12m-long buses could potentially ferry people between NTU and CleanTech Park in the Jurong Innovation District, to even Pioneer MRT station in the future. The single-deck buses can accommodate about 80 passengers.
The vehicles will also be equipped to charge at a bus stop or depot.
“Current efforts worldwide have been focused on cars,” said Professor Lam Khin Yong, NTU Chief of Staff and Vice-President of Research. “So, this autonomous bus trial is the first of its kind in Singapore that will aim to improve road safety, reduce vehicle congestion, alleviate pollution and address manpower challenges.”
LTA also inked an agreement with NTU on a research study to improve preventive maintenance and rail reliability in Singapore.
A real-time condition monitoring tool that detects early signs of defects in traction power systems will be developed as part of the project. The technology will allow round the clock monitoring, without disrupting normal train operations.
Also announced, a pilot project which incorporates the floor plans of MRT stations into Google Maps, starting with five stations - City Hall, Raffles Place, Orchard, Esplanade and Promenade. This will be available on mobile and desktop maps from Wednesday.
The goal is to help improve the public transport system to meet commuters needs, said LTA. Together with Google, it will review feedback gathered from the pilot, and look at extending the initiative to more stations.