Autonomous vehicles must pass safety test before being allowed in trial areas

We refer to the commentary by Mr Zack Lim Xue Li, executive director and chief technology officer of Trinax Singapore (Check autonomous vehicle driving tests for blind spots; Oct 31).

Autonomous vehicle (AV) technology has the potential to alleviate our land and manpower constraints. Since 2015, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been facilitating AV trials to understand how AV technology can be deployed to improve our transport system in future.

First, to ensure the safety of all road users, trials that take place in Singapore must fulfil stringent requirements. Before being allowed into designated trial areas such as one-north, the AV must pass a rigorous safety assessment administered by LTA and the Traffic Police.

The AV must demonstrate the ability to handle basic manoeuvres and stop safely upon detecting an obstacle. This safety assessment is conducted in an enclosed circuit and protected environment at the Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of AVs-NTU , located in Jurong Innovation District.

AVs are also fitted with a "black-box" data recorder, which stores video footage and collects key data. The developer must also obtain insurance coverage against third-party liability and property damage before any on-road trials.

Second, AVs can progress beyond designated trial areas to more complex environments only when they demonstrate a higher level of competency through additional stringent tests.

LTA monitors the activities of AVs operated on public roads real-time through our Autonomous Vehicle Monitoring and Evaluation System.

Third, all AVs are required to have a safety driver on board at all times. The safety driver is trained to take immediate control of the vehicle, in accordance with strict operational protocol.

AVs must also have a vehicle fault alert system that will alert the safety driver to any faults, and cede control of the AV to the safety driver on board.

Public safety is always the top priority in trials. The Ministry of Transport has amended the Road Traffic Act so that LTA is empowered to create and amend rules related to AVs to safeguard public safety.

Lam Wee Shann

Group Director, Technology & Industry Development

Land Transport Authority

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'Autonomous vehicles must pass safety test before being allowed in trial areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe