The authorities have moved boldly by deciding to make all of western Singapore a test bed for self-driving vehicles. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) began to facilitate on-road trials of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in 2015, and current test sites include Buona Vista, Jurong Island and Nanyang Technological University in western Singapore, as well as Sentosa. Clearly, the evidence of those trials would have weighed in favour of expanding their area to neighbourhoods such as Bukit Timah, Clementi and Jurong, with the expanded test bed covering more than 1,000km of public roads. The LTA has decided to expand the test bed because companies want to conduct trials that are closer to real-life situations in the sense that they would involve a wider range of traffic scenarios and road conditions.
This expansion would serve to make AVs more road-worthy in the future by moving tests beyond designated areas that are typically separated from public roads. While that practice arguably makes trials safer, it stands to reason that AVs so tested would join public roads eventually. This is why they need to be tested robustly on the extent to which they can perform safely and effectively in actual traffic conditions. Western Singapore provides a reasonably good microcosm of the larger traffic system. Lessons learnt from operating AVs there could be applied to the rest of the country before the planned pilot deployment of AVs in the early 2020s. Tests therefore have to be intense so that the vehicles are ready for deployment by a deadline that is not too far away.