Singapore to develop autonomous road cleaning vehicles

The flagship projects are the first to be conducted under Singapore’s National Environment Agency’s robotics program.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) and Ministry of Transport (MOT) have awarded Research & Development (R&D) projects to two consortiums, for the design, development and trial of Autonomous Environmental Service Vehicles (AESVs) for road cleaning.

The flagship projects are the first to be conducted under NEA’s Environmental Robotics Programme, in line with NEA’s efforts to better optimise resources, drive innovation, push widespread technology adoption, and improve productivity across the Environmental Services (ES) industry.

The two projects will apply autonomous vehicle (AV) technology to commercial mechanical road sweepers. NEA and MOT, which had worked closely with the National Robotics R&D Programme Office (NR2PO) on the formulation of the requirements and technical evaluation of the proposals, will continue to work with NR2PO to review the technical progress of both projects.

The two awarded consortiums consist of experienced and established players from the AV and ES industries, with the first consortium comprising of Nanyang Technological University, Enway, Veolia ES Singapore Industrial and Wong Fong Engineering Works.

The second consortium will comprise of ST Engineering Land Systems and 800 Super Waste Management.

The proposals were selected by a multi-agency panel out of a total of eight proposals, based on their potential to fulfill the Government’s objectives for AESV deployment, as well as their prior experience in developing AV technologies and familiarity with road cleaning operations in Singapore.

These proposals had been received in response to the Request for Proposals (RFP) jointly issued by NEA and MOT in December 2017.

Image credit: Dulevo International

The successful application of AV technology to mechanical road sweepers will enable service providers to adopt innovative technology and better solutions to improve productivity and deliver quality services in the ES industry.

The deployment of AESVs for road cleaning comes under one of the four key tracks of the roadmap developed by the Committee of Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS), to deploy AV technology to improve productivity in utility operations and alleviate traffic congestion by shifting utility operations to off-peak hours.

Trials to begin in 2020

Each of these projects will be carried out over a duration of 18 months and will comprise a development phase over a period of 12 months, followed by a proof-of-concept (POC) trial over a six-month period. Each consortium will develop one AESV unit.

The POC trials are expected to begin in 2020. The trials will be conducted in two stages:

  • each consortium will be required to test and demonstrate the safety features of their AESV units within the enclosed circuit and protected environment of the CETRAN AV Test Centre; and
  • each consortium will only be allowed to commence trials on public roads at designated AV test sites such as one-north, after they have successfully passed a rigorous safety assessment. The AESVs are required to have on board at all times for the duration of the trials, a safety driver who is trained to take immediate control of the vehicle, in accordance to strict operational protocols.

The successful completion of these trials will pave the way for the pilot deployment of AESVs for road cleaning. Details of the pilot deployment will be announced after 2020.

NEA CEO Tan Meng Dui said the award of the R&D projects for the design, development and trial of the AESVs for road cleaning marks a significant milestone in the transformation of the Environmental Services (ES) industry.

“These projects form the building blocks of a transformed future cleaning sector of higher productivity and better jobs,” he said.

“Building on existing technologies used on our mechanical sweeper vehicles to monitor the progress and status of road cleaning, these projects seek to further automate road cleaning, by catalysing the local robotics industry to build up expertise and experience in delivering environmental robotic solutions, which can then be commercialised and potentially exported.

Under the NEA’s Environmental Robotics Programme, we look forward to the continued contributions of the robotics industry in enabling the transformation of the ES industry, not just for road cleaning but across the entire cleaning sector.”

Permanent Secretary for Transport and CARTS chairman Loh Ngai Seng said deploying AV technologies goes beyond enhancing the accessibility and connectivity of Singapore’s transport system.

“The deployment of AESVs will enable us to optimise the use of our road network, while improving the productivity of road cleaning operations,” he said.

“With reduced reliance on manpower, we can potentially shift road cleaning activities to the night and reduce congestion during the day. We look forward to working with both consortiums towards the potential deployment of AESVs on our roads in the near future.”

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