Singapore plans to develop and trial autonomous buses


Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) has signed a partnership agreement with ST Kinetics to develop and trial autonomous buses in the city-state as part of the efforts by the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS) to accelerate the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to enhance urban mobility.

This is the fourth agreement that the LTA has recently signed to pursue its aims, and is in addition to the agency’s ongoing partnerships with the Energy Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological University (ERI@N) to develop and trial autonomous bus technology, as well as with Delphi and nuTonomy to conduct autonomous mobility-on-demand trials. The proposal from ST Kinetics, the land systems and specialty vehicles arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering), came from the LTA’s Request for Information (RFI) that was issued in June 2015 on how AV technology could be harnessed as part of future mobility concepts, such as mobility-on-demand and autonomous buses.

ST Kinetics’ project will enable the LTA to explore if AV technology can meet the need to encourage more people to take public transport, by providing convenient, comfortable and efficient shared transport options for commuters, especially during the morning and evening peak hours.

ST Kinetics will develop and integrate the AV technologies onto two 40-seater electric buses that can be deployed to serve fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-town travel in the future. To navigate autonomously, the buses will use a satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) and a suite of sensors to scan and determine their location and immediate surroundings. The buses will also have radar and sonar units fitted that are able to detect other vehicles and pedestrians up to 656ft (200m) ahead. ST Kinetics is also working to improve the autonomous buses’ ability to navigate in heavier rain conditions, which are prevalent in Singapore, with increases up from the current 0.4in/h (10mm/h) to 1.2in/h (30mm/h).

The three-and-a-half year project will see the autonomous buses being tested in various environments. LTA is working with stakeholders such as the National University of Singapore (NUS), as well as the state-owned real estate company JTC, to look at suitable trial locations, which can potentially include Jurong Island and the NUS campus. The initial testing will be conducted during off-peak periods at an industrial area where the road infrastructure is less complex. As the autonomous buses are gradually equipped with more advanced capabilities, they will be progressively introduced to more complex trial sites.

“Currently, most AV technology developers are focusing their efforts on developing self-driving cars,” noted Lam Wee Shann, the LTA’s chief technology officer. “Singapore’s need for high-capacity vehicles to address commuters’ peak-hour demands presents an opportunity for companies such as ST Kinetics to develop autonomous buses to address this latent demand. We are excited to partner ST Kinetics to develop autonomous electric buses, that if successfully deployed, will benefit commuters and greatly change the way we travel.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).