Singapore plans autonomous truck convoys

PSA International is joining forces with Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) to test and develop an autonomous truck ‘platooning’ system that promises to increase productivity at the port.

PSA says the autonomous truck platooning technology, which comprises one human-driven truck with one or more driverless trucks following behind, will help alleviate the shortage of manpower in the trucking industry and raise productivity with more cargo transported per driver.

By shifting more haulage activities to off-peak hours, it’s also said to help improve traffic flow during peak periods, which in turn, will help the trucking industry meet the increased demand for container haulage between the different port terminals and ultimately, other truck movements island-wide.

“As Singapore’s maritime sector continues to grow and container volumes increase, the need for efficient inter-terminal and inter-port haulage has never been greater. Autonomous truck platooning technology can enable us to make a quantum leap in productivity in the port sector, while addressing the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry and adding value to their jobs,” said Pang Kin Keong, Permanent Secretary for Transport and chairman of the Committee for Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore (CARTS).

Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the two parties will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) by December 2015 to design and carry out autonomous truck platooning trials over a three-year period. Two proposers will be shortlisted to demonstrate their technology during the first stage, before one of the two is selected to trial its technology at the designated route in Singapore.

“As we continue the development of our terminals at Pasir Panjang and plan for future terminals at Tuas, autonomous truck platooning will enable PSA to serve our customers better through increased port and inter-terminal productivity,” added Ong Kim Pong, regional CEO, Southeast Asia, PSA.

The trials will initially involve inter-terminal haulage between Brani Terminal and Pasir Panjang Terminals. For this, a 10km long test route along West Coast Highway has been identified. The technology may eventually be scaled up for haulage within the port area, as well as between Pasir Panjang Terminals and Tuas Port.