Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Singapore to Implement Autonomous Freight Truck Convoys between Port Terminals

Experimental System Designers Selected for Competition
Shipping News Feature
SINGAPORE – The Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) and the Singapore Ministry of Transport (MOT) have agreed with Toyota Tsusho and Scania to design and test an autonomous truck platooning system for use on Singapore’s public roads. The scheme entails a human-driven truck leading a convoy of three driverless trucks. The Singapore trials will see the trucks transport containers from one port terminal to another which will according to the stakeholders alleviate a shortage of manpower and allow more freight movement to be conducted at night to ease traffic congestion.

According to the PSA, Scania and Toyota were shortlisted based on the quality of their proposals and their strong track records in both truck manufacturing and the development of self-driving technology. Both companies will be working to develop technologies to enable heavy vehicles to move in leader-follower formation, as well as to fully automate the processes for precise docking and undocking of cargo. The trial mirrors the short term experiment in which six truck manufacturers, including Scania, sent convoys of similarly equipped vehicles across Europe last April.

The trials will take place in two phases over a three-year period from January 2017 to December 2019. The first phase, lasting about a year, will focus on designing, testing and refining the truck platooning technology to adapt to local conditions. The trials will be conducted by Scania and Toyota in their respective research centres in Sweden and Japan. Depending on the outcomes of the phase 1 trials, MOT and PSA Corporation will then select one of the companies for phase 2, which will consist of local trials and some development of the technology in Singapore.

A 10 kilometre long test route along West Coast Highway has been designated for the phase 2 trials. The trials will initially involve inter-terminal haulage between Brani Terminal and Pasir Panjang Terminals, and may eventually be scaled up for haulage within the port area, as well as between Pasir Panjang Terminals and Tuas Port. Mr Pang Kin Keong, Permanent Secretary for Transport and Chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore (CARTS), said:

“Trucking as we know it today is a highly labour intensive industry. We face a shortage of truck drivers. In this regard, truck platooning technology presents us with an opportunity to boost productivity in both the port sector and the trucking industry. It will also open up opportunities for truck drivers to take on higher-skilled roles as fleet operators and managers.”

We already see remote control of some container and freight handling equipment in some of the world’s ports and terminals and autonomous trucks would be a natural evolution of this as Mr Ong Kim Pong, Regional CEO Southeast Asia, PSA International explained saying:

“As PSA prepares for our future terminals at Tuas, it is timely that we move on to the next steps in developing autonomous truck platooning technology. I am excited by the progress being made, as it underlines our joint commitment to being future ready, while also helping us continue to serve our customers better through fast and efficient inter-terminal container movement.”