Singapore and Dubai plan driverless demonstrations

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore is to trial a fleet of four driverless minibuses from next year on the tourist island of Sentosa.

The on-demand vehicles, 15-passenger Navya Arma built in France and 20-passenger ST Kinetics Shuttle made in Singapore, will ply three routes at a maximum speed of 80km/h (50mph). These are Tanjong Beach and Palawan East to Siloso Point, and Sentosa Golf Club to Imbiah Lookout.

Visitors will be able to hail the vehicles through their smartphones or at information kiosks across the island. A fleet management system will optimise route management based on passenger demand. Real-time movement of the pods will be monitored through closed-circuit television along the roads.

Later, ST Kinetics will build two 12m aluminium-bodied 40-seat electric buses capable of travelling at up to 60km/h (37mph) and using sensors to detect other vehicles and pedestrians up to 200m ahead. They will use a fast-charging system.

These prototypes will be tested at an industrial area during off-peak hours, before being tested on journeys between towns and cities, and are expected to take 18 months to construct.

‘Singapore’s need for high-capacity vehicles to address commuters’ peak-hour demands presents an opportunity for companies such as ST Kinetics to develop autonomous buses to address this latent demand,’ says LTA chief technology officer Lam Wee Shann. ‘If successfully deployed, autonomous buses will benefit commuters and greatly change the way we travel.’

■ A fleet of 25 driverless minibuses, each carrying up to 24 passengers, should start operating in Dubai by 2019, linking Bluewaters island with the city’s metro. The service of 2.5m long vehicles, using technology by Dutch company 2getthere, will have an initial capacity of 3,750 passengers per hour in each direction, with journeys taking less than 5min.