SINGAPORE - Driverless road sweepers have been deployed to clean limited areas as part of trials launched on Wednesday (Jan 13).
If the trials are successful, these "autonomous environmental service vehicles" (AESVs) will pave the way for pilot deployment on roads during off-peak hours in the next few years.
The trials began this month, after the National Environment Agency (NEA) said two AESV prototypes had successfully demonstrated their features, and are expected to run till July.
The proof-of-concept trials of the AESVs will be conducted progressively, starting with off-peak timings, such as weekends and evenings, in designated small-scale environments in one-north, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and CleanTech Park at Jurong Innovation District.
In adherence to the Land Transport Authority's safety framework for autonomous vehicle trials, both AESVs will have a safety driver on board at all times who is trained to take immediate control of the vehicle if required.
Operation of the AESV prototypes is also monitored in real-time from a command centre by an off-site operator.
Additionally, both AESV test units feature prominent decals and markings which are easily identifiable to other road users.
Mr Daryl Yeo, director (Futures and Transformation) at the Ministry Of Transport, said the deployment of AESVs will help shift road cleaning activities to off-peak hours, thereby reducing road congestion.
"This demonstrates the strong potential of autonomous systems to make our transport network more efficient and future-ready," he added.
The vehicles were developed by two consortia, which were awarded research and development projects by NEA and MOT back in March 2019, to apply autonomous vehicle technology to commercial road sweepers.
One consortium consists of NTU, Enway, SembWaste and Wong Fong Engineering Works, and the other is formed by ST Engineering and 800 Super Waste Management.
The NTU consortium's vehicle is fully electric, which helps reduce ambient noise output while producing zero carbon emissions.
The ST Engineering consortium's vehicle can save up to 60 per cent more water compared to conventional road sweepers.
Mr Patrick Pang, chief technology officer of NEA, said: "The commencement of the AESV road trials marks a key milestone in its R&D journey, which aims to augment manpower in the environmental services industry, particularly the cleaning sector."
The implementation of AESVs will also alleviate the manual workload of cleaners, improving overall productivity.
Speaking at the launch of the AESV trials at the Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of Autonomous Vehicles, NTU (CETRAN), Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment and for Transport, said: "The work of our cleaners will become easier, safer, and smarter, and that will allow our workers to take on higher value-added tasks.
"We hope that through such projects, we will be able to catalyse the local robotics industry, to help them build up the capability and expertise to deliver environmental robotic solutions, which can be commercialised and exported, and of course, to expand opportunities for our local industries."