ST Engineering's autonomous vehicle management system, will allow the vehicles to analyse passenger demand and optimise route management.
Self-driving Sentosa shuttle from next week ST Engineering's autonomous vehicle management system, will allow the vehicles to analyse passenger demand and optimise route management. PHOTO:ST FILE

Visitors to Sentosa will be able to use their mobile phones to book an autonomous shuttle bus ride from next Monday 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, which can each carry about 10 passengers, is part of a three-month trial of four such autonomous vehicles (AVs). The trial will run until 15 November.

An earlier trial in June last year had the buses operating on the island without passengers.

The service - a collaboration between ST Engineering, the Ministry of Transport and Sentosa Development Corporation - 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 yesterday at an event at Sentosa Golf Club.

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.

The shuttles will be able to operate in moderate rainy weather of about 10mm per hour, said 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. The authorities see AVs as a key part of the Republic's move towards a car-lite future.

In March, 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, transport operator ComfortDelGro, together with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and French start-up EasyMile, began a trial of an autonomous shuttle service in 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.