Autonomous Vehicles, Next Stop: Singapore

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1 Autonomous Vehicles, Next Stop: Singapore TAN Cheon Kheong and THAM Kwang Sheun Abstract Since Google unveiled its driverless-car technology in 2010, several car manufacturers have announced plans to introduce autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles. As the technology evolves, some countries are testing the technology or are planning to do so. In this paper, we discuss the potential applications and benefits of autonomous vehicles for a land-scarce city like Singapore, the challenges ahead and the research needed to realise the applications. Introduction Vehicles that drive themselves are no longer just fantasies. In 2010, Google unveiled its driverless-car technology. It has been testing self-driving cars on public roads in the United States (Figure 1). Not to be outshone, several automakers, such as Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Volkswagen and Volvo, have announced plans to introduce driverless cars or semiautonomous models. Figure 1: Google s self-driving car in California December 2013, to allow driverless cars to be tested on public roads. Other countries have also jumped on the bandwagon. In Britain, the government is supporting the implementation of driverless cars. In Sweden, Volvo is planning to conduct trials involving 100 of its driverless cars on the streets of Gothenburg in 2017 (Knapman 2013). In Japan, Nissan received the authorities approval in 2013 to test its electric car equipped with an advanced driver assist system on public roads. It plans to launch selfdriving cars by 2020 (Nissan 2013). Photo by: Google, United States The U.S. leads the way in the pursuit of autonomous vehicles with three states (Nevada, Florida and California) having passed laws in 2012, followed by Michigan in In Singapore, French company Induct and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in partnership with JTC Corporation (JTC), began to test a self-driving electric vehicle (which was manufactured by Induct) at CleanTech Park, an eco-business development in Jurong, in 2013 (Figure 2) (NTU 2013). The 3.5 metre-long vehicle has standing room for 10 people. It could potentially be offered as a shuttle to ferry students on the campus of NTU and to transport workers across compounds of factories. JOURNEYS November

2 Besides, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), a research enterprise established by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in partnership with the National Research Foundation of Singapore, is testing autonomous golf carts (Counts 2013), as well as a driverless car, at the National University of Singapore. Industry experts believe that highly automated vehicles would become viable by 2020 and fully autonomous ones could be common by Figure 2: The driverless electric vehicle along the road outside CleanTech Park in Singapore dynamic routes within towns. A network of shared vehicles within a town could address first mile, last mile issues. Third, developments in the automotive industry in the long term could make it viable to adopt autonomous cars on a large scale. An integrated network of driverless vehicles could include self-driving taxis and autonomous carsharing. A network of autonomous vehicles could make it viable to introduce smart expressway lanes, on which the vehicles move in platoons to increase throughput of the roads (Figure 3). Figure 3: Toyota s Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA) System being tested on roads. Such research could lead to automated highways in future Photo by: Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Potential Applications Do autonomous vehicles have a place in landscarce Singapore? Transport experts seem to believe that these vehicles could potentially fit into Singapore s future transport landscape. First, autonomous buses could improve productivity, safety and reliability of bus services of fixed routes and scheduled timings. They could overcome the lack of bus drivers. Second, autonomous vehicles could serve as new mobility modes to offer customised and demand-responsive transport services of Photo by: Toyota, Japan Smart parking systems could also be implemented, whereby driverless vehicles drop their passengers off, go find a parking space themselves and park closely to each other. This saves space while potentially rendering parking offences a thing of the past. Other applications may include driverless commercial vehicles that ply in the middle of the night to optimise road space. This would save manpower on drivers and minimise traffic congestion. 6 JOURNEYS November 2014

3 Smart parking systems could also be implemented, whereby driverless vehicles drop their passengers off, go find a parking space themselves and park closely to each other. This saves space while potentially rendering parking offences a thing of the past. Benefits These autonomous applications could benefit Singapore in other ways. Improved road safety - Data from Singapore s Traffic Police shows that there are many motorists with dangerous driving habits. There was continued increase in the number of speeding and red-light running violations. In 2012, 2,917 people were arrested for drink-driving (Channel NewsAsia 2013), and there were 168 people killed and 9,106 injured in road accidents in Singapore (Singapore Police Force 2013). In self-driving vehicles, irresponsible driving behaviour and human errors in driving would be eliminated. With fewer road accidents, there would be less traffic jams, injuries and fatalities, lower medical costs associated with accidents, fewer insurance claims and hence lower premiums. Car rides could be less stressful for the drivers, who would instead spend their time on other activities in the cars. Improved fuel efficiency, lower transport costs and time savings - Self-driving vehicles could choose the best route. This lessens road congestion, fuel usage and carbon emissions. Instead of owning and operating a car, households could book a driverless taxi when they need to commute. Driverless taxis could better match the demand for taxis because they would work harder than human drivers, and this enhances fuel efficiency and boosts customer satisfaction. Alternatively, households could opt for autonomous carsharing, which optimises the use of cars. Self-driving vehicles could choose the best route. This lessens road congestion, fuel usage and carbon emissions. Instead of owning and operating a car, households could book a driverless taxi when they need to commute... Alternatively, households could opt for autonomous car-sharing, which optimises the use of cars. Optimisation of land needed for transport - With autonomous vehicles moving in platoons in smart expressway lanes, road capacity would be increased tremendously, besides reducing traffic jams and improving fuel efficiency. Driverless taxis and autonomous car-sharing would also use up less land for roads and parking lots. JOURNEYS November

4 Mitigating manpower constraint for bus services - Autonomous buses could alleviate the heavy reliance on manpower to drive buses. Economic growth and job opportunities in emerging economies in the region could lead to fewer people wanting to work as bus drivers in Singapore. Enhanced mobility for elderly and disabled - In 2012, Google released a video of a blind man sitting in the driver s seat of its test selfdriving car (with a passenger as backup), being driven around to purchase fast food and pick up his dry cleaning. That illustrated that self-driving vehicles could give the elderly and disabled more freedom and mobility, which would be advantageous for cities like Singapore with an ageing population. Managing Challenges However, there are several challenges that cities need to overcome in their desire to reap the benefits of autonomous vehicles. Regulatory considerations - Policymakers have to sort out regulatory and liability issues. Would a driving licence be required for one to operate a self-driving vehicle? If a driverless vehicle is involved in an accident, does responsibility fall on the carmaker and/ or the technology supplier? Can the passenger sue them for loss and injury? Regulators are still reviewing such issues. Even in the U.S., Nevada s legislation allows for the vehicle under testing to be operated in autonomous mode without the presence of the operator only if the certificate of compliance certifies that the vehicle is capable of being operated in that manner. California, Florida and Michigan require the driver to be seated at the driver s seat monitoring the safe operation and he has to be capable of taking over immediate control in an event of technology failure. Similarly, Singapore would need to revise its traffic regulations and be prepared for the day when autonomous vehicles become commercially available. Unexpected situations - Despite advancements in artificial intelligence, would driverless vehicles be able to make the right decisions in unexpected situations? Can they adapt and respond to the dynamic traffic conditions and interactions with other road users, like what human drivers can do? Could an autonomous vehicle make a value judgment between avoiding a pedestrian and causing harm to its own passengers? What if a child or anyone without a normal driving licence gets into a self-driving car and activates its human override function, which would then enable him to drive the car like a normal vehicle? Trials need to be rigorously conducted to surface such scenarios. High costs - For autonomous vehicles to work well, roads, road signs and signals may need to be mapped or made intelligent. These would involve costs. Who should pay for them: the owners of autonomous vehicles or the general tax-payers? 8 JOURNEYS November 2014

5 Despite advancements in artificial intelligence, would driverless vehicles be able to make the right decisions in unexpected situations?... Trials need to be rigorously conducted to surface such scenarios. Regulations for actual deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads; and Infrastracture needed for the autonomous vehicles. Figure 4: Hitachi s ROPITS (Robot for Personal Intelligent Transportation System) is an autonomous personal mobility device developed to support shortdistance transport for the elderly or those with walking difficulties Privacy and security concerns - As self-driving vehicles would communicate with each other in a network, there may be privacy concerns about passengers locations being made known to others. Could driverless vehicles be manipulated by hackers or terrorists to cause them to crash or carry a bomb? Regulators would need to address these issues. Towards Better Future Mobility Driverless vehicles could benefit our society in many ways. However, to realise their potential in Singapore, much research is still necessary in the: Identification and development of new personal mobility concepts that autonomous vehicles could be used for. (Figure 4 is an example). In 2013, the British town of Milton Keynes announced the introduction of driverless cars on its roads as part of a trial, beginning in 2015 with 20 pods and 100 pods by These cars would each carry two passengers and first travel on special pathways separated from pedestrians but later shared with them (Halliday 2013); Photo by: Hitachi Ltd., Japan The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is looking at ways to learn and understand the potential opportunities and challenges that autonomous vehicle technology has for Singapore. To this end, LTA is collaborating with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the lead agency for research and development (R&D) in Singapore, to set up the Singapore Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (SAVI). SAVI provides a technology platform with a joint programme office to oversee and manage R&D and test-bedding of autonomous vehicle technology, applications and solutions for JOURNEYS November

6 industry partners and stakeholders. SAVI will support a 17-member Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS), which has been set up by the Ministry of Transport, to holistically chart the strategic direction for autonomous vehicle-enabled land mobility concepts in Singapore. To support the R&D of autonomous vehicle technology, LTA will work towards a framework that allows autonomous vehicles that meet safety standards to be tested on Singapore s public roads. As a start, LTA and JTC have identified One-North, a 200-ha development, as the first public test site in Singapore for the testing of driverless vehicles. This will take effect from January 2015 (LTA, JTC and A*STAR 2014). It is not inconceivable that the future land transport scene could be one where all road vehicles are self-driving and shared like buses and taxis. Seats for different destinations are available on demand; allocation of vehicles and road space is optimised for resource effciency and energy consumption. The autonomous mobility solution could bring our City to another level of excitement and liveability. When integrated with mass public transport, it would make commuting no more a hassle and driving no longer necessary. References Channel NewsAsia Arrested for Drink- Driving in Island-Wide Operation. Channel NewsAsia.com, April 19. Accessed September 16, singapore/10-arrested-for-drink/ html. Counts, Natalie SMART Driverless Golf Cart Provides a Glimpse into a Future of Autonomous Vehicles. MIT News, December 9. Accessed December 20, newsoffce/2013/smart-driverless-golf-cart-providesa-glimpse-into-a-future-of-autonomous-vehicles. html. Halliday, Josh Driverless Cars Set to Roam Milton Keynes from 2017, Says Vince Cable. The Guardian, November 7. Accessed November 15, technology/2013/nov/07/driverless-cars-coming-tomilton-keynes. Knapman, Chris Large-Scale Trial of Driverless Cars to Begin on Public Roads. The Telegraph, December 2. Accessed December 6, news/ /large-scale-trial-of-driverless-carsto-begin-on-public-roads.html. Land Transport Authority, JTC Corporation and Agency for Science, Technology and Research Joint Release by the Land Transport Authority, JTC & A*STAR A SAVI Step Towards Autonomous Transport. News Release, August 27. Accessed August 29, page.aspx?c=2&id= bc3b- 0241a4639d46. Nanyang Technological University NTU to Trial Singapore s First Driverless Vehicle on the Roads. News Release, August 16. Accessed August 29, Pages/newsdetail.aspx?news=635afd55-4f9b- 484a-a e2bb788d. 10 JOURNEYS November 2014

7 Nissan Motor Corporation Nissan Leaf with Highly Advanced Driver Assist System Gets First License Plate for Public Road Testing in Japan. News Release, September 26. Accessed October 20, NEWS/2013/_STORY/ e.html. Singapore Police Force Traffic Police Annual Accessed September 16, spf. gov.sg/prints/tp_annual/2012/index_tp_12.htm. Tan Cheon Kheong is a Senior Researcher in the Future Mobility Division of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore. His current research areas include emerging strategic issues in land transport. He holds a Master of Business Administration from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours) in Economics and a Bachelor of Science (with Merit) from the National University of Singapore. Prior to joining the LTA in 2013, he was a researcher at the National University of Singapore. Tham Kwang Sheun is the Manager of the Future Mobility Division of the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Singapore. His current portfolio includes futures thinking and planning strategic research and testbeds of future mobility solutions. Before joining the LTA, Mr Tham was with other Statutory Boards in Singapore, working on energy R&D planning and managing academic research in the physical science and engineering felds. He holds a Master of Engineering degree in Computer Engineering by research and has several years of industry R&D experience in electronics and consumer products. JOURNEYS November

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