SINGAPORE -- Defense company Singapore Technologies Engineering announced on Monday plans to develop 40-seat, self-driving buses for inclusion in the national public transport system by late 2020.
Subsidiary ST Kinetics will lead the project, incorporating satellite navigation systems and light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARs) on buses that will run in various climatic and traffic situations. The vehicles will have three doors and be capable of carrying 36 seated passengers and 33 standing, plus one wheelchair, at a top speed of 60km per hour.
ST Kinetics will run trials in partnership with Singapore's Land Transport Authority, and the plan is to run buses on scheduled bus routes by 2020. Vincent Chong, ST Engineering's president and chief executive, described the project as a step towards solutions that will "transform" urban transportation connectivity.
Before rolling out the autonomous buses, ST Kinetics will develop four smaller, on-demand, self-steering shuttles for trials in 2019 on Sentosa, Singapore's popular resort island. Passengers will be able to call the shuttles using smartphones or from kiosks. The trials will test route optimization calculations and ride-sharing concepts.
ST Engineering also announced on Monday the launch of the Singapore Autonomous Vehicles Consortium, which will be responsible for identifying protocols and standards for putting autonomous vehicles on public roads. The consortium includes Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the National University of Singapore's engineering faculty.
ST Engineering has already produced Auto Rider, an autonomous shuttle that operates at Gardens by the Bay, a popular tourist area near the Marina Bay Sands casino resort.
As a small country with an aging population and a labor crunch, Singapore has become increasingly serious about deploying autonomous technology in other sectors.