- The Straits Times
Singaporeans will soon see more autonomous vehicles on roads.
The entire western part of Singapore is set to become a testing ground for autonomous vehicles (AVs), with over 1,000km of public roads opened up for companies to conduct tests, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport, announced on Thursday morning (Oct 24).
The change will be carried out gradually over the next fear years in an incremental manner, and public safety remains a top priority, Dr Puthucheary said.
Speaking at the Autonomous Mobility Summit at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress, the minister said that the expanded testbed area is in response to industry feedback that a more varied testing environment would accelerate development and open up “new challenging scenarios to AV developers”.
Currently, the largest test site at Buona Vista measures just 70km. Existing test sites for AVs also include Jurong Island, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Sentosa.
He also warned that public acceptance is a key factor for widespread adoption of autonomous mobility and can be “easily eroded” if accidents were to occur.
To achieve trust, both industry and authorities must continue to work closely together into to find a safety regime that “strikes the balance between innovation and safety”, Dr Puthucheary said.
Safety drivers must be on board “at all times” during AV trials, and all tests are subject to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) approval, he added.
The testbed pilot programme was unveiled in 2017 with the aim of providing first-last mile commutes for residents in Punggol, Tengah and Jurong Innovation District.
Besides expanding testbeds, Puthucheary said that the Government will be supporting the setup of “open innovation platforms”, which enables companies and local institutes to co-create mobility solutions. One such platform is the S$24 million testbed partnership between Singapore telco M1 and NTU.
“These improvements are an important part of our strategy and roadmap to promulgate AV deployment in Singapore”, the Minister said.
The trials and efforts to date and in the future will continue to “give us even more insights into the concepts of operations for the deployment of AVs at the town-level as well as the infrastructural requirements for such town-scale deployments,” he added.
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