Hands-free MRT fare gates to be tested at some stations

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Asean transport ministers checking out the Smart Wheelchair System, which uses visual markers for the wheelchairs to move in a convoy autonomously, at the Future of Tra
LTA project manager Serena Ong demonstrating the use of a hands-free automatic fare collection system, where fares are paid via a mobile device using Bluetooth, or with an RFID card.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Asean transport ministers checking out the Smart Wheelchair System, which uses visual markers for the wheelchairs to move in a convoy autonomously, at the Future of Tra
Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and Asean transport ministers checking out the Smart Wheelchair System, which uses visual markers for the wheelchairs to move in a convoy autonomously, at the Future of Transport showcase. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Trial next year may be at stations near centres for the disabled and estates with many senior residents

A hands-free payment system will be tested at selected MRT stations next year, which will allow commuters to breeze through fare gates - without the need to use travel cards to tap in or out.

Instead, fares will be paid automatically via a commuter's mobile device using Bluetooth technology, or with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) card. These devices or cards can be kept in a bag or pocket, and do not need to be put in close contact with a reader.

A prototype of this hands-free fare gate was among several innovations displayed yesterday at the Future of Transport showcase held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands.

The exhibition, which depicts the Republic's vision of the future of air, land and sea transport, was organised alongside the 23rd Asean Transport Ministers Meeting, a two-day event chaired by Singapore that kicked off yesterday.

The concept of a hands-free automated fare collection system was first mooted in 2015, when the Land Transport Authority issued a request-for-information to source for ideas from the industry on the technology and equipment needed for such a system.

For the public trial next year, the authorities are looking to deploy the test fare gates at MRT stations near support centres for persons with physical disabilities, or housing estates with large populations of senior citizens, The Straits Times understands. The aim is to see if the hands-free system will allow such users to enter and exit the fare gates with greater ease.

Associate Professor Mehul Motani of the National University of Singapore's department of electrical and computer engineering, said the hands-free fare payment system will be convenient for users and is expected to take off once more vendors - such as mobile phone manufacturers and RFID-chip makers - come on board to support it. The devices and cards will have to be compatible with the fare gates, he added.

"For these types of digital mobile payments to really work, the user experience must be seamless, and security and privacy issues must be addressed too," said Prof Motani.

At yesterday's showcase, transport delegates and officials from the region were also given an overview of several innovations, such as the use of data analytics and autonomous technology for operations at the future Tuas Terminal mega port.

Demonstrations involving the use of robotics and autonomous technology for ground-handling operations at the airport were also conducted by Sats. It also displayed, for the first time, an on-trial autonomous guided vehicle called the Caddy that can deliver documents from airport terminals to aircraft.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Hands-free MRT fare gates to be tested at some stations'. Print Edition | Subscribe