Driverless vehicle technology is gradually gaining ground in Singapore. While the technology is still is limited, it will be expanded in the future as the technology develops further. Similarly, tests for driverless trucks are set to be conducted in Singapore before the end of the year.
Two vehicle companies are set to spearhead the project following the signing of agreements on January 9, 2017. A joint news release by the PSA Corporation and the Ministry of Transport (MOT) indicated that Toyota Tusho and Scania will develop and test a driverless truck system in Singapore. The move aims to enhance the competitiveness of port services in the country and increase freight movement. It also provides truck drivers opportunities to become fleet operators and managers. The program is set to be completed within three years and will consist of two phases.
The two companies will conduct the first phase of the program in their respective countries. It involves the design, test, and refinement of the technology to make it adaptable to Singapore. One of the companies will be selected to conduct the second phase by the PSA Corporation and MOT. The selected company will conduct tests and additional development of the driverless truck technology in Singapore.
The second phase will see the trucks running along a ten-kilometer stretch along the West Coast Highway between the Pasir Panjang and Brani Terminals. The driverless trucks will be tested in different conditions, including rainy conditions and at night. Depending on the outcome of the trials, the program may be scaled up to include the Tuas Port.
Truck Platooning System
A truck platooning system will be used in the program. The system involves driverless trucks being led by a human-driven truck. The trucks are linked through wireless communication. Coupling and decoupling of the vehicles will allow other road users to cross in between the truck convoy. In addition, the trucks will also feature vehicle detection, lateral control, and anti-collision technology for safety reasons.
A parallel program is also being developed with the collaboration between the VGL Group, a Dutch company, and the Singapore Management University (SMU). This program will be piloted by Katoen Natie. The Belgian chemical logistics company will initially use 12 trucks in a three-month trial program set to start in September. The first phase of the trial will be conducted in an enclosed area within the plant. It involves the use of transponders installed along the area where the driverless trucks will be tested. The second phase will have the driverless trucks guided using a General Packet Radio System (GPRS) as they ply the roads in Jurong Island. The last phase of the program will see the trucks on public roads. The company wants to have drivers manning the trucks in the first few months of the program before they become totally driverless.
Effects Of Driverless Trucks
While some concerns were raised about the use of driverless trucks in other parts of the world, it is seen as a way of addressing the manpower shortage in Singapore, particularly in the trucking industry. Permanent Secretary for Transport Pang Kin Keong said Singapore currently faces a shortage of truck drivers. Katoen Natie chief executive Koen Cardon echoed these concerns saying most of the truck drivers in Singapore are at least 50 years old. He added that the younger generations do not like the idea of becoming truck drivers.
With the developments in driverless car technology around the world, it is only fitting for a similar technology to be developed for the trucking industry. Due to this, you should not be surprised if you find yourself on the same road with a driverless truck hauling freight from one terminal to another in the future.