SINGAPORE - Visitors to Sentosa will be able to use their mobile phones to book an autonomous shuttle bus ride from next Monday (Aug 26) to take them to popular destinations such as the Siloso and Tanjong beaches.
Bookings can be made either with the Ride Now Sentosa application or at kiosks on the island. The procedure is similar to booking a trip with ride-hailing firms such as Grab.
The shuttle bus service on the island is part of a three-month trial of four such autonomous vehicles (AV). The trial will run until Nov 15.
The service - a collaboration between ST Engineering Land Systems, the Ministry of Transport and Sentosa Development Corporation - will only run for four hours a day on weekdays for now.
The vehicles, which can each carry about 10 passengers, will be available between 10am and noon, and then between 2pm and 4pm from Mondays to Fridays, excluding public holidays.
Passengers can use the service at seven stops along a 5.7km route.
For safety reasons, the vehicles will each have a safety driver who is trained to take over in case of emergencies.
The shuttle bus service was officially launched on Tuesday at an event at the Sentosa Golf Club.
It comes after a trial of the vehicles on a route between the Tanjong and Siloso beaches, which began in June last year. At that point, the buses did not pick up passengers.
The vehicles are equipped with various technologies, including Lidar (light detection and ranging) and global positioning systems, and are supported by ST Engineering's autonomous vehicle management system which analyses passenger demand and optimises route management.
Permanent secretary for transport Loh Ngai Seng said the upcoming trial will provide "important insights into commuter experience and the interaction of AVs with other road users, as we seek to enhance urban mobility by deploying AV technology safely in our towns".
Mr Loh also chairs the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore.
Though rain and snow have posed problems for self-driving vehicles overseas, these shuttles will be able to operate in "moderate" rainy weather of about 10mm of rain per hour, noted ST Engineering’s Dr Lee Shiang Long, who is the firm’s Land Systems president.
Traffic on Sentosa is not heavy but the resort island poses other challenges - with narrow winding roads, roundabouts and wildlife, he added.
Dr Lee said ST Engineering is also exploring the use of road-side sensors to enhance the vehicles' capabilities.
The authorities see AVs as a key part of the Republic’s move towards a car-lite future.
In March this year, ST Engineering announced a tie-up with Chinese firm BYD to vie to deploy driverless buses in Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Lake District, as part of a trial which is expected to begin in 2022.
And last month (July) transport operator ComfortDelGro, together with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and French startup EasyMile, began a trial of an autonomous shuttle service on the NUS campus.
Singapore is first in Asia and second in the world in consulting firm KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index, based on the Republic’s readiness to adopt autonomous vehicles on the strength of its government, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.