Driverless vehicles could hit public roads here next year

Driverless vehicles could hit public roads here next year
(From left) Driverless vehicles that are being tested by Nanyang Technological University, ST Kinetics and NUS-Smart, respectively.

IT WON'T slam its brakes, it won't cut into your lane and it won't tailgate. It also won't have a driver.

From January next year, driverless cars could hit Singapore's public roads for the first time.

A year-long trial may see these fully autonomous cars zipping around buildings in the one-north area. A separate trial involving driverless buses could also see workers being ferried between Fusionopolis and Biopolis by 2016.

A new 17-member committee formed by the Transport Ministry has set up the two schemes.

Headed by the ministry's permanent secretary Pang Kin Keong, it will research, develop and implement driverless technology in Singapore.

Among the members are international experts, industry players and personnel from the Land Transport Authority and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Singapore is still in the early stages when it comes to the use of driverless vehicles, with such vehicles being tested by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (Smart). Nanyang Technological University and engineering firm ST Kinetics are also testing such vehicles.

Two driverless golf buggies could be available for the public to test in Jurong Lake District later this year.

Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo said Singapore is about 10 to 15 years away from a full deployment of such vehicles. While that is quite a long wait, when the vehicles eventually hit roads, neighbourhoods will be clean, green and car-free, she said.

"For longer intra-town commutes, commuters can just hop onto a pod that runs through an underground network, almost like a personalised MRT," she said.

In Milton Keynes in Britain, 100 electric-powered driverless pods ferry people around town.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that shared driverless vehicles could reduce passenger vehicle ownership here from the current 900,000 to 300,000.

But experts say introducing driverless technology in Singapore may have complications too, such as getting commuters to feel safe in driverless vehicles, and setting out regulations.

"One challenge is liability - what if it hits someone? Who pays?" said MIT professor Emilio Frazzoli, who sits on the new committee.

Those who wish to give feedback to the committee can visit

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