nce the stuff of fiction, driverless vehicles are fast becoming a reality. Advancement in machine learning and autonomous technology in recent years has hastened the development pace. The rollout of the 5G network, which is up to 100 times faster than 4G, will give added impetus. As driverless or autonomous vehicles (AVs) require constant real-time communication between their users and the environment around them, 5G will enable vehicles to talk to each other in real time. They will know when another car is changing lanes or braking and can adjust to manage traffic accordingly.
Some of the biggest names in the vehicle and tech industry are engaged in the development of AVs as they have the potential to save lives. It is a well-established fact that human error is largely responsible for accidents in highways and city streets, causing injuries and even death.
After years of development, several pilot schemes have taken to the roads. While it will take a few more years for the industry to iron out the technical kinks to ensure that AVs can operate safely under any environmental condition, we are significantly closer today in being chauffeured around in driverless cars than we were two years ago.
Singapore takes the lead
Singapore is an early technology champion of AVs as they have the potential to radically transform its transport system and improve living environment. AVs, which forms an integral part of Singapore’s smart mobility initiative, can provide an additional transport option for the public, reducing the need for private car ownership. The technology also holds great potential for freight transportation and utility, and help address manpower and space constraints.
Since the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (Carts) was formed to chart the direction of self-driving technology in 2014, Singapore has established a new two-hectare test facility at Jurong Innovation District to facilitate the testing of AV navigation controls in a real-world environment. The CETRAN AV Test Centre is designed to replicate the different elements of Singapore’s roads, with common traffic schemes, road infrastructure and traffic rules. The circuit also features a rain simulator and flood zone to test AVs’ navigation abilities under different weather conditions.
Singapore has also amended the Road Traffic Act to better regulate the trials of AVs, and put AVs to the test for intra and inter-town travel, on-demand shuttle services, freight transport and utility operations such as road sweeping.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) have also announced that autonomous scheduled buses and autonomous on-demand shuttles will serve commuters in Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District from 2022.
For two consecutive years, the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) has ranked Singapore second only to the Netherlands in the world in embracing AVs.
Mr. Satya Ramamurthy, Partner & Head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare at KPMG, Singapore, said: “The 2019 AVRI clearly reflects that the ecosystem for AVs in Singapore is ready and very much aligned with how Singapore is establishing itself as a Smart Nation and centre for AV development with the deployment of a simulated test-bed and plans for driverless buses.”
The Index provides an in-depth view of what it takes for countries to meet the challenges of self-driving vehicles. Countries are evaluated against four pillars: policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance. In 2019, Singapore came up tops in policy and legislation as well as consumer acceptance and is second only to the Netherlands in the area of infrastructure.
Singapore has also taken the lead in developing standards for AVs. Unveiled in January 2019, the Technical Reference 68 (TR 68) serves to guide the industry on the development and deployment of vehicles in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 4 and 5 bands. At these levels, the vehicle is fully autonomous in limited and all driving scenarios, respectively.
The first such national standard in the world, the TR 68 was developed under the purview of the SSC’s Manufacturing Standards Committee with input from the AV industry, government agencies, research institutions and institutes of higher learning. Overseas experts were also consulted during the development process. The provisional standard covers four areas: vehicle behaviour, vehicle functional safety, cybersecurity and data formats.
Ms Choy Sauw Kook, Director-General, Quality and Excellence Group, Enterprise Singapore said, “In addition to safety, TR 68 provides a strong foundation that will ensure interoperability of data and cybersecurity that are necessary for the deployment of AVs in an urban environment. The TR 68 will also help to build up the AV ecosystem including start-ups and SMEs as well as Testing, Inspection and Certification service providers. As AV technology is new, it is encouraging to see local and international experts from the industry, government agencies and academia working together to develop this technical reference together with the SSC, Enterprise Singapore and LTA. This robust industry partnership is critical in developing other standards to support Smart Nation projects in Singapore and also for supporting future smart city projects in the ASEAN region.”
As a provisional standard, TR 68 will continue to undergo refinement as AV technology matures. Feedback from the industry will be gathered and used to review TR 68 as it is eventually expanded to cover other aspects of AV development and deployment.