Singapore tests driverless road-sweeping vehicles that produce zero emissions, less noise

The Autonomous Environmental Service Vehicles by ST Engineering (left) and Nanyang Technological University at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of Autonomous Vehicles on Jan 13, 2021. — TODAY pic
The Autonomous Environmental Service Vehicles by ST Engineering (left) and Nanyang Technological University at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of Autonomous Vehicles on Jan 13, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Jan 14 — Driverless road-sweeping vehicles might become a common sight on Singapore's streets in the near future, as the National Environment Agency (NEA) is trying out two such vehicles over the next half year.

The trials, which started in January this year, will run until July 2021 and are being conducted at designated areas in One-north, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Cleantech Park at Jurong Innovation District.

The vehicles were developed by two groups who were awarded the project in March 2019. The first comprises NTU, Enway, Sembwaste and Wong Fong Engineering Works, and the other comprises ST Engineering and 800 Super Waste Management.

The unit designed by the NTU-Enway-Sembwaste-Wong Fong Engineering Works consortium is fully electric, producing zero carbon emissions and less noise than a traditional road-cleaning vehicle.

ST Engineering and 800 Super Waste Management’s unit is also environmentally-friendly, saving up to 60 per cent of water usage compared to conventional sweepers.

Both units have undergone “rigorous safety assessments” by the Land Transport Authority before being approved for the trials. The trials will be conducted progressively, starting with off-peak timings such as weekends and evenings.

The vehicles will be labelled with prominent markings to make them identifiable to other road users.

Due to safety requirements for autonomous vehicles, both units are required to have a safety driver on board who can take control of the vehicle when needed. They will also be monitored from a command centre by an off-site operator cum cleaning professional.

If the trials are successful, they will pave the way for the pilot deployment of autonomous environmental service vehicles in the next few years, said Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor.

“We hope that we will be able to catalyse the local robotics industry, to help them build up capabilities and expertise to deliver environmental robotics solutions,” said Dr Khor.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Ministry of Transport, Dr Amy Khor speaking to the press at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of Autonomous Vehicles on Jan 13, 2021. — TODAY pic
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Ministry of Transport, Dr Amy Khor speaking to the press at NTU’s Centre of Excellence for Testing & Research of Autonomous Vehicles on Jan 13, 2021. — TODAY pic

These technologies can then be commercialised and exported, expanding opportunities for local industries, she added

The launch of such autonomous vehicles also makes cleaners’ work easier, safer and smarter, she said, allowing the workers to take on higher value-added tasks such as operating mechanised equipment.

Tay Jiun Chaw, manager of operations at Sembwaste’s public cleaning division, agreed: “Our driver may be able to take on the technician role when it’s required to do immediate troubleshooting.”

“This opens up new opportunities for the environmental services industry as it allows jobs to be redesigned for the future workforce.” — TODAY

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