Currently Singapore’s public transit agency, the Land Transit Authority (LTA), has one of the most extensive and closest to maturity automated vehicle (AV) program that is likely to revolutionize transportation throughout the world. A mix of need (aging population, limited space, decreasing interested workforce), vision (significant state investment, public interest) and innovation (incredible human capacity, relationships with research institutes and public sector) has made Singapore the right role model for any agency looking to adopt automation technologies. On the first day of the 20th Combined Mobility Committee Meeting participants were able to learn more about Singapore’s current plans to execute an automated bus network sometime in the 2020s.
Some Key Takeaways for the Americas Include:
AV development and implementation require significant time and investment to be effective.
o The LTA’s AV program includes years of testing in increasingly complex environments (i.e. testing track, university grounds, a ‘quiet’ city block, a ‘busy city block).
o The LTA has a mix of agency led, university led, and industry led development of AV technologies and capabilities that allows for the agency to own and control the new technologies developed by the program.
o The LTA is able to directly review data and information from private sector and set the parameters that best suit their needs.
o The LTA has a goal of fully implemented AVs in 2023 after extensive testing and technology development that was announced in 2014.
o Read more about the origins of the AV program in Singapore here.
AV in Singapore is driven mostly by necessities and a land planning strategy that North American Agencies should take note:
o The LTA anticipates an aging population and few young people interested in public transportation will make hiring and retaining the next generation of bus drivers difficult when public door to door services will be needed most.
Retaining bus drivers is becoming an increasingly difficult issue for most public transit systems in North America and significant shifts in demographics and culture throughout the continent will require agencies to become more flexible in their service.
o The LTA is planning to encourage mini-economic centres throughout the island to reduce the super concentration of the city business center – AVs will fill in the role of last mile shared transit in these new mini-economic centers.
Transit oriented economic development has currently focused on fixed route infrastructure, but the potential for flexible, low cost AV transit to support or augment existing transit systems throughout towns and cities along dense transit routes can enhance local connectivity to low density areas in a relatively cheap and flexible manner.
The LTA’s AV program has allowed for the agency to develop capabilities in key technologies that will dominate transportation and life in our society for the foreseeable future.
Some Advice After Meeting seeing LTA’s AV Program:
An AV program should start ‘easy’ and then become more ‘complex’.
o AV should be started with easy, low density fixed routes and enter more complex environments. Examples of an easy, dedicated AV route includes: Replacing airport monorail systems, replacing hospital or university bus routes, replacing facility complex shuttle systems
Automation can be an incredible tool for public transportation.
o Automation can allow for more flexible light vehicles and busses to provide flexible supplements to fixed route, high volume services that can be cheaper and more responsive to shifting demographics and lifestyles. In the Americas it can supplement late night services, lower densities and last-mile capabilities.
Automation can be coupled with other new technologies to spur modernization.
o Coupling automation into a program that includes digitalization, mini-bus flex services and electric vehicles can allow transit organizations the opportunity to holistically create a new service that will both internally grow capacity in these new technologies and also will allow the agency to implement these technologies on a fresh new platform.