Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said that self-driving technology gives Singapore the opportunity to improve the public transport system in a significant way. For example, manpower shortages can be overcome with self-driving buses.
This is his reply towards Nominated Member of Parliament, Mr Azmoon Ahmad who asked the Minister for Transport whether Singapore is ready to be claimed as an autonomous vehicle ready nation and if so, whether the regulations and legal framework have been established, and how does the Ministry intend to deal with the recent accident involving an autonomous driving vehicle.
Mr Khaw said that the Government can also introduce new mobility concepts such as fleets of self-driving pods to enhance first-last mile travel. It is testing these and other concepts to better understand the technology and their potential for application in Singapore.
However, he stated that the self-driving technology is not yet mature enough for widespread public deployment. Most analysts believe that this day is about 10 to 15 years away. Over the next few years, Singapore will see incremental deployment in limited circumstances and geographies.
Mr Khaw noted that Land Transport Authority (LTA) has established a regulatory framework to facilitate trials of self-driving vehicles in Singapore. He said that self-driving vehicles must demonstrate roadworthiness by passing an overall vehicle safety assessment to trial on public roads and all trial participants must have in place insurance covering injury to persons, death and property damage.
According to Mr Khaw, the Government is also studying the regulatory and legal frameworks they would need to have in place for the day when self-driving vehicles are deployed on Singapore’s roads on an actual-use basis, and no longer for trials and pilots. The trials currently being conducted in one-north and other parts of Singapore will give a better understanding of these issues. He said that it is also sharing notes with overseas counterparts.
Mr Khaw said that LTA and the Traffic Police are investigating the accident involving nuTonomy’s self-driving car.
However, things did not go off well when world’s first self-driving taxis that started in Singapore on 25 August, had its first accident on 18 October. A netizen, Michael Chong Kwan Chew posted a photo, that he took after the accident, on the page of Singapore Taxi Driver Facebook.
A driver-less taxi operated by nuTonomy was shown on the photo to have collided with a lorry although the detail of the accident is not clearly revealed.
Mr Chong commented that he was not sure who’s wrong but it seems that the driverless car took the lane of the lorry. The right bumper of the taxi was damaged and the side of the lorry was dented.
This incident happened while the self-driving taxi is undergoing its trial-program which is less than two-months old.
Mr Khaw stated that in the meantime, nuTonomy has stopped its trials while it reviews the causes of the accident and how to improve the safety of its trials, and rectifies any technological shortcomings it may find.