The prosperity of a city is inextricably linked to the quality of its transport system. Good road networks facilitate the flow of goods and services, spurring economic growth. Increasingly, however, cities have become a victim of their own success. Intense urbanisation has resulted in congestion and pollution, stressing both commuters and infrastructure. Land-scarce Singapore is cognisant of these challenges. With 12% of our land already used for roads, it is critical for us to shape mobility in ways that enable our citizens to enjoy a better quality of life whilst optimising space and resources.
We envision a future transport system where public, active and shared modes of transport will be the choice mode of transport for Singaporeans. We will leverage three key technological advances to realise this.
Internet of Things
Innovations in “Internet of Things” (IoT) provide transport planners with a range of real-time traffic data to enable the safe, reliable and effective management of road traffic. CRUISE, which refers to the CoopeRative Unified Smart Traffic SystEm being developed by the Land Transport Authority, leverages artificial intelligence, simulation and prediction to analyse richer and larger data sets to optimise traffic flow and manage congestion or incidents. The information collected and analysed can then be used to adjust traffic light timings to enable a smoother flow of traffic or give priority to public buses and emergency vehicles. CRUISE will progressively replace LTA’s existing traffic control system GLIDE (or the Green-Link Determining System) in controlling all traffic lights, starting with trials from 2020.
Improvements in data analytics can also support efforts to improve the reliability of the public transport network. By leveraging condition monitoring and data analytics, public transport operators can conduct predictive maintenance and repairs, and pre-empt faults before they can affect commuters. This helps us to ensure our trains run smoothly, reduce maintenance costs and enable the timely renewal of assets.
Analytics can help shape commuter behaviour. The real-time analysis of rich data sets from diverse sources yields valuable insights into commuter travel patterns, enabling the design of more effective transport policies and services that better meet commuter needs. For example, using data analytics on commuter travel patterns, the Public Transport Council devised a Differential Fares Scheme to spread out commuter load during the morning peak period. Under this scheme, rail commuters enjoy a discount of up to 50 cents if they tap in before 7.45am. Since the introduction of the discount in December 2017, the number of commuters travelling during the morning pre-peak period has increased by 12%.
We are excited about the potential of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to transform our public transport system. Combining capabilities in IoT and data analytics, AV fleets will be able to dynamically reposition themselves in response to commuter demand. Smaller-capacity AV shuttles can also be summoned to ferry commuters from their doorsteps to nearby train stations. Multiple AV trials have been ongoing since 2015, and are progressing well. In the early 2020s, we will deploy autonomous scheduled buses and autonomous on-demand shuttles for public transport in three precincts on a pilot basis.
The Future is Now
The application of IoT, data analytics and autonomous technologies will bring us closer to our vision of a smart and connected transport system, where commuters can choose from a smorgasbord of mobility options to suit their needs: from rail and public buses, to ride-hailing and autonomous shuttles. As public, active and shared transport become the preferred modes for commuters, roads will be safer, and less congested and polluted. With a more efficient transport network and lower private car ownership, parking spaces can be reduced and roads reclaimed for greenery, recreational and community spaces.
The transport revolution is already taking shape. We look forward to working with industry to develop this exciting, sustainable, and commuter-centric vision for future mobility.
Loh Ngai Seng
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transport
Chairman, Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS)