LTA plans to improve travel with tech trials

Commuters tapping their EZ-Link cards on the fare gates at Dhoby Ghaut MRT.
Commuters tapping their EZ-Link cards on the fare gates at Dhoby Ghaut MRT. PHOTO: ST FILE

Commuters may one day be able to zip through MRT fare gates simply by scanning their mobile phones, wristbands or other personal items.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will carry out trials later this year as part of a bigger move to harness technology for convenient travel, said Mr Pang Kin Keong, the Transport Ministry's permanent secretary. Speaking yesterday at a symposium themed "Future Mobility" at the National University of Singapore, he said the authorities are also working on a use-first-pay-later system for public transport.

He said: "This eliminates hassle for the commuters in having to top up their fare cards regularly. For the operators, this reduces the need for front-end top-up service counters and machines."

The vision for fare payment, though, is what is termed the Be-In-Be-Out system, he added.

Instead of making commuters tap in and out to register a trip, the technology can detect and automatically register commuters in a bus or train so long as they have the fare cards on them. Such hands-free systems will offer commuters the "ultimate convenience", Mr Pang said.

He added that the LTA will be studying the feasibility and applicability of the technology.

In land-scarce Singapore, it is important to provide a public transport system with a high enough level of connectivity, speed and comfort so that Singaporeans will feel less of a desire to drive, he said.

Technology and innovation are key to achieving this, he added.

The Government aims to shift 75 per cent of all peak hour trips to public transport by 2030, up from about 63 per cent now.

Mr Pang also spoke of initiatives across the larger transport sector, for example in freight transport.

There are plans to test truck platooning, or what is also known as "follow-me" technology. This comprises a lead truck steered by a driver, followed by a convoy of about three to four driverless trucks, which reduces manpower reliance and increases productivity.

Mr Pang said doing this would benefit the logistics sector here in Singapore, which faces a shortage of drivers.Civil servant Alice Ng, 38, said: "I like the idea of not having to tap for bus and MRT travel. "It would be really convenient especially when you have shopping bags or other things to carry," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'LTA plans to improve travel with tech trials'. Print Edition | Subscribe