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Singapore launches self-driving bus trials

The buses are able to navigate and operate by themselves but a driver is still at the wheel as certain routes switch from automatic to manual

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In a step towards a driverless public transport network, Singapore has launched a new trial for self-driving buses.

During the trial, which lasts until April 30, passengers can use an app to book a bus ride during off-peak hours for the Haw Par Villa route, which costs about 40 cents, or the Jurong Island route, which costs S$2.

The trials are being conducted by ST Engineering, SMRT and SBS Transit.

These buses are fully electric and thus, eco-friendly.

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The buses are able to navigate and operate by themselves but a driver is still at the wheel for two reasons; to take control, if necessary, and to do the driving along parts of the route where this has to be done manually.

This happens, for example, in the Singapore Science Park 2 part of the trial. The driver switches from automatic to manual mode in West Coast Highway and Pasir Panjang Road between the park and Haw Par Villa MRT Station. This is in accordance with the LTA’s geographical restrictions on the operation of these autonomous vehicles.

A few trials of driverless buses have been conducted in the past five years, although they were not fee-paying.

The first trial took place in 2015, while a trial of driverless road sweepers was launched earlier this year. This set of trials will last until April 30.

Industry watchers have said the technology is at least five to 10 years from being rolled out, and those developing the technology have said a realistic target would be to use these vehicles as last-mile connections between destinations that are not as well connected, and MRT stations and bus stops.

Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said at the official launch of the two routes on Jan 25 that, if this initiative is successful, it will greatly reduce the country’s reliance on foreign manpower and physical manpower. /TISGFollow us on Social Media

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