Autonomous Buses are currently being developed in Singapore. To enhance Singapore’s land transport system, new forms of shared mobility in the form of autonomous vehicles are envisioned to improve the first and last mile commute, bringing commuters from point to point in air-conditioned comfort.
The push for Autonomous Vehicles the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is spearheaded by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS). The LTA has engaged in partnership agreements with multiple organizations to work on bringing autonomous buses to reality.
At present, multiple research groups are involved in the development of a prototype autonomous bus for Singapore. This article will focus on Autonomous Buses. while other forms of autonomous vehicles will be discussed at the bottom of this article.
LTA-NTU-Volvo Autonomous Bus (2019)
The Nanyang Technological University (NTU) entered the Autonomous Bus scene in October 2016 when it signed an agreement with the LTA to develop autonomous bus technologies, including conducting a self-driving bus trial for fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-town travel.
Under this collaboration, the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) would test and develop their self-driving vehicle technology with two electric hybrid buses. The roads between NTU and CleanTech Park, which is located within Jurong Innovation District, were earmarked as potential test routes for the self-driving bus trial. It was envisaged that the trial could be extended in future to ferry commuters from NTU and Cleantech Park to Pioneer MRT station. The self-driving buses would feature opportunistic charging technology that will enable them to be recharged when they stop at a bus depot or bus stops.
In January 2018, Volvo Buses was brought onboard the trial to develop electricity-powered autonomous buses, representing the company’s first foray into autonomous uses for buses and public transport. The project to develop the Autonomous Bus is led by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles (CETRAN).
Two Volvo 7900 Electric buses are expected to be supplied as a testbed for technological development. As a partner, SMRT would also assess the buses at a depot to see if the vehicles can navigate into washing bays and park at charging stations.
While no passenger trials have been announced, the bus is expected to be able to carry passengers with a safety driver onboard once testing has concluded.
The buses will have Global Positioning System and lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors, which use laser beams to map the surrounding environment and detect obstacles. In addition, fast-charging technology by Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB would be to charge up the buses’ batteries during layovers. In various cities in Europe, opportunity charging for buses via pantograph is an emerging technology being implemented for selected electric bus routes.
A 1.8-hectare test facility within the Jurong Innovation District (just adjacent to NTU) was used as a testing ground. Opened in August 2016, the test circuit emulated a multitude of urban scenarios, including an area with simulated rainfall. The facility is part of the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles – NTU (simply known as Cetran), which was set up by LTA and JTC in partnership with NTU and was operational in the 4th quarter of 2016.
LTA-ST Kinetics Autonomous Bus (2020)
Information retrieved from LTA press release:
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has also signed a partnership agreement with ST Kinetics in April 2017, aiming to develop and trial autonomous buses. The proposal from ST Kinetics, the land systems and speciality vehicles arm of ST Engineering, had been shortlisted under LTA’s Request for Information (RFI) issued in June 2015 on how AV technology can be harnessed as part of mobility concepts such as mobility-on-demand and autonomous buses.
Deploying autonomous buses for public transport
To encourage more people to walk, cycle and take public transport, we have to provide convenient, comfortable and efficient shared transport options for commuters. This includes higher-capacity vehicles, such as buses, to ferry people to their destinations in a timely manner, especially during the morning and evening peak hours. ST Kinetics’ proposal to develop and trial autonomous buses will enable LTA to explore if AV technology can meet this need.
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 (GPS) System and a suite of sensors to scan and determine their location and immediate surroundings. The buses will also have radars and sonars that are able to detect other vehicles and pedestrians up to 200m ahead. In addition, ST Kinetics is also working to improve the autonomous buses’ ability to navigate in heavier rain conditions, up from the current 10mm/h to 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 JTC to look at suitable trial locations, which can potentially include Jurong Island and 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.
The development and testing of the autonomous buses will aim to cover as many scenarios faced by bus feeder services as possible, to deepen understanding on the current state of the technology and to prepare for eventual full-scale operations in the future when the technology matures. In the longer term, it is envisaged that the trial could be extended to public roads in towns to enhance intra-town travel.
Ligier – EasyMile EZ-10
An autonomous bus developed by French firm Ligier. Deployed at Gardens By The Bay.
Navya – Arma
An autonomous bus developed by French firm Navya, intended to shuttle passengers between NTU and Cleantech Park. To move autonomously, the Arma shuttle uses a Global Positioning System and four intelligent cameras that analyse road signs and traffic lights, along with eight lidar (light detection and ranging) sensors, which use laser beams to map its surrounding environment and detect obstacles.
The Government has identified Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District (JID) as areas where residents and workers can turn to self-driving buses and shuttles for their first- and last-mile commutes from 2022.
The plans, unveiled by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Wednesday (22 November 2017), is the latest in Singapore’s drive towards adopting autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, alongside other applications announced earlier, such as driverless campus buses, truck platooning systems and unmanned road sweepers. At these three new towns, it is envisioned that robot buses will run scheduled services during off-peak periods to complement human-driven ones, while driverless shuttles can be summoned on demand by commuters.
Self-driving car scene:
More information at:
A 1.8-hectare test facility was also constructed within the Jurong Innovation District just adjacent to NTU. The test circuit was opened in August 2016, and emulated a multitude of urban scenarios, including an area with simulated rainfall. The circuit was part of the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles – NTU (simply known as Cetran), which was set up by LTA and JTC in partnership with NTU and was operational in the 4th quarter of 2016.
External Links & References:
- Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore – Ministry of Transport
- Joint News Release by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), JTC & NTU – Paving the Way for the Safe and Effective Deployment of Self-driving Vehicles in Singapore – LTA
- NTU, LTA and JTC unveil Singapore’s first autonomous vehicle test centre – JTC