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.
A report by research house Fitch Solutions Macro Research in March 2019, said that Singapore is now a step closer to autonomous vehicle adoption, with the publication of provisional national standards to guide the development and roll-out of autonomous vehicles. The standards, termed as Technical Reference 68 (TR 68), were published by Enterprise Singapore in January. They aim to promote the safe deployment of fully autonomous vehicles in Singapore.
In a separate report released in February 2019, consulting firm KPMG International said Singapore is second in the world behind the Netherlands, and first in Asia in its readiness to adopt autonomous vehicles. This was judged based on four criteria – policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance.
NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus (2019)
Main Article: NTU-LTA-Volvo Autonomous Bus Trial and Volvo 7900 Electric
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).
In March 2019, a launch ceremony was held for the bus and showcased to the media.
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)
Main Article: STE-Linkker Autonomous Electric Bus
ST Engineering Land Systems announced in April 2017 that it was developing two autonomous buses for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that will undergo public road trials by mid-2020. The company signed a partnership agreement with the LTA to harness autonomous vehicle technology as part of mobility concepts such as mobility-on-demand and autonomous buses.
The company will develop Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technologies and integrate them onto two 40-seater electric buses. These prototype vehicles would undergo a three-and-a-half year period of road trials expected to begin in mid-2020, with potential test grounds being Jurong Island and the National University of Singapore (NUS)’ campus. The eventual goal was to develop autonomous buses capable of running fixed and scheduled bus services for intra- and inter-town travel.
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.
Autonomous Bus Testbed – Scania K230UB
ST Kinetics has also collaborated with SBS Transit to develop its autonomous bus. The bus operator provided STK with inputs on its bus operations’ and customers’ needs. In 2018, one Scania K230UB (SBS8033D) was fitted with a suite of sensors, such as including LIDAR sensors, ultrasonic sensors and visual cameras, as part of the autonomous bus development.
Field trials of two AV buses are expected to begin in the first half of 2019 followed by a full trial in May 2020.
Main Article: EasyMile EZ10
Auto Rider (Gardens by the Bay)
In December 2015, as part of a 2-week public trial, 2 units of the Auto Rider were deployed at Gardens By The Bay, on 1.5km-long loop in the Gardens.
The Auto Rider was officially launched on 22 June 2016 for public rides in Gardens by the Bay. Each vehicle had a capacity of 10 passengers, with 6 seating and 4 standing or 1 Wheelchair.
NUSmart Shuttle (National University of Singapore)
Main Article: NUSmart Shuttle – Autonomous Bus Trial at NUS
The EasyMile EZ-10 (Referred to as NUSmart Shuttle for this trial) was funded and imported by Inchcape Singapore, and operated by ComfortDelGro Bus Pte Ltd for the trial. The fully-electric vehicle carries up to 12 people, and the year-long trial aims to gauge the commercial viability of a fully autonomous shuttle service.
The NUSmart Shuttle (Registered as RD3168X) will first embark on a 1.5-month long road test from 25 May 2019 at NUS’ Kent Ridge Campus, plying on a 1.6km route between Heng Mui Keng Terrace and Business Link to “map” the route through the collection of data for the vehicle’s navigation systems. The shuttle would be travelling at between 5km/h and 16km/h during this period.
Upon completion of the mapping process, the NUSmart Shuttle would run a validation test for three hours daily over a four-week period. During this time, the shuttle would not be taking passengers. Following the road test, the NUSmart Shuttle is expected to commence passenger service trials in the third quarter of 2019.
Although it is a driverless vehicle, the NUSmart Shuttle would carry a Safety Operator on board for safety reasons. The Safety Operator would be on hand to provide information to passengers and ensure safe operation of the vehicle.
Main Article: Navya Autonom Shuttle
Previously known as the Navya Arma. An autonomous bus developed by French firm Navya, intended to shuttle passengers between NTU and Cleantech Park. Intended for a 3-month operational trial in Sentosa in Year 2019 as a Mobility-on-Demand-Vehicle.
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. Previously known as Arma, the bus has been rebranded as Autonom Shuttle.
Two units underwent a 3-month operational trial in Sentosa from 29 August to 15 November 2019 as a Mobility-on-Demand-Vehicle.
Main Article: ST Kinetics Autonomous Mini-Bus (Autobus)
An autonomous bus developed by ST Kinetics, now ST Engineering Land Systems. Two units underwent a 3-month operational trial in Sentosa from 29 August to 15 November 2019 as a Mobility-on-Demand-Vehicle.
Main Article: 2getthere ParkShuttle
Since November 2017, a single 2getthere ParkShuttle has been plying between NTU Hall of Residence 12 & 15.
In April 2018, 2getthere, NTU SMRT Services signed a MoU, paving the way for the Group Rapid Transit (GRT) solution to be deployed on the NTU Smart Campus by 2019. The new GRTs will be tested on NTU’s campus in a few phases, which will start around the last quarter of 2018.
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
- Features of Auto Rider – Gardens by the Bay
- Autonomous Shuttle Trial Starts at the National University of Singapore – ComfortDelGro