Following successful on-road testing that began in June, Singapore has launched its first on-demand autonomous shuttle public trial, with the pilot operating in the city-state’s Sentosa district from August 26 to November 15.
Members of public visiting Sentosa will be able to hail an autonomous shuttle via the ‘Ride Now Sentosa’ mobile app or at kiosks along a 3.5 miles (5.7km) long route to bring them to selected destinations on the island, such as Siloso Point, Beach Station, Palawan Beach, Tanjong Beach and Sentosa Golf Club. Developed by the Land Systems arm of ST Engineering (STE) in partnership with Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), four autonomous vehicles (AVs), comprising two minibuses and two smaller shuttles, will be deployed for the trial. Provided free of charge, the service will operate for four hours on weekdays: from 10am to 12 noon, and from 2pm to 4pm.
The trial service is supported by STE’s Autonomous Vehicle Management System, which analyses passenger demand and optimizes route management for ride-sharing. The AVs come equipped with various technologies such as radar, lidar (Light Detection and Ranging), GPS (Global Positioning System), odometry and computer vision, to help them sense their environment and identify appropriate navigation paths, obstacles and signages. This enables the AVs to navigate mixed traffic environments as well as handle a range of complex road layouts, such as roundabouts.
Each trial AV has undergone a rigorous safety assessment jointly administered by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Traffic Police, and the Center of Excellence for Testing and Research of AVs (CETRAN) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to demonstrate its ability to handle basic maneuvers and stop safely upon detecting an obstacle. Public safety is our top priority. A safety driver is on board each AV, who is trained to take over immediate control should the need arise. They are further supported by a vehicle fault system that will immediately alert them of any faults, and cede control of the AV to the driver. In addition, all the AVs will display electronic signages to signal that they are operating autonomously, for easy identification by road users and pedestrians.
“The Sentosa shuttle trial marks a significant step towards the operationalization of autonomous vehicles in Singapore, noted Dr Lee Shiang Long, president of land systems at STE. “Leveraging the Singapore AV R&D ecosystem, we have grown considerably in terms of building up our autonomous capabilities, from adapting the vehicles to navigate roundabouts and operate in mixed-traffic and rain conditions, to developing software for a mobile app to allow passengers to hail an on-demand shuttle.”
Singapore’s Permanent Secretary for Transport and chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport, Loh Ngai Seng, said, “Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology has the potential to transform our public transport system and the way we move around in the future. This trial will provide important insights into commuter experience and the interaction of AVs with other road users, as we seek to enhance urban mobility by deploying AV technology safely in our towns.”