SINGAPORE: As Singapore drives towards a future with autonomous vehicles (AVs), the Ministry of Transport is starting to look at how road rules can be extended to self-driven vehicles in the future.
Mr Chris Leck, director of the Futures Division at the ministry said on Wednesday (Jun 6) that those working on AVs are “quite aware” of the need to address issues like who has right of way during a situation between a human driver and an autonomous system.
There is a standards development team within the ministry working on such a framework currently. They are also looking at things like data management - “as AVs gather a lot of data" such as video surveillance of its environment - as well as cybersecurity, Mr Leck shared during a panel session at the ongoing Innovfest Unbound event.
They are also looking at international standards, such as those which relate to functional safety for cars, and how these can be incorporated into the framework, he told Channel NewsAsia on the sidelines of the event.
His comments came after another local official, Mr James Tan, shared about the experience of deploying autonomous wheelchairs at Changi Hospital - a collaboration between the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT and National University of Singapore.
Mr Tan, who is the principal engineer of Sensors & IoT at Government Technology Agency (GovTech), said during the same panel session that two autonomous wheelchairs were deployed at a taxi stand at the hospital to help ferry patients and the designated distance was 200m.
While the distance was short, human traffic was heavy, he noted, adding that the algorithm had a rule that said the wheelchair must give way to humans.
In the end, it took nine minutes to travel the 200m, which was not acceptable, the GovTech official said, raising that as an example of how traffic rules for AVs can be complex and need to be carefully thought through.
That said, Mr Leck shared that the “ultimate goal” is for these self-driving vehicles to be able to interact with and be part of mixed traffic situations, and they will not need dedicated lanes on the roads.
Singapore has been a strong proponent of autonomous vehicles for some time now, and it amended the Road Traffic Act last February in order to make AV trials a reality.
With the changes, MOT is allowed to create new rules which can place time and space limits on the AV trials, set standards for the design of the AV equipment, and impose requirements to share data from the trials.
The regulatory framework can also exempt AVs, operators of AVs and those conducting or participating in trials of AVs from existing provisions of the Road Traffic Act, which make a human driver responsible for the safe use of a motor vehicle while on a public road.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced last November that Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District will be the first areas in Singapore to have self-driving buses and shuttles plying the roads from 2022.