Singaporeans worried over autonomous vehicle tests

  • Singapore
  • Friday, 25 Oct 2019

Rise of the machine: The Shared Computer-Operated Transport, a self-driving electric vehicle by Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, being tested at the National University of Singapore’s University Town. — The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE: Residents of the western part of Singapore had mixed reactions about the news that self-driving vehicles will be tested on public roads in their neighbourhoods, with many of them concerned about thevehicles’ speeds and their ability to react to road conditions.

MPs of areas where these autonomous vehicles (AVs) will be tested, which include Bukit Timah, Clementi and Jurong, told The Straits Times that while they support the move, more engagement is needed from AV companies to assure the residents of their safety features.

Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary announced that up to 1,000km of public roads in Western Singapore will be opened up for companies to test AVs.

The expansion is expected to take place gradually over the next several years and public safety will be a top priority, he said.

All AVs that will be tested in these areas will have to display prominent decals and markings to ensure easy identification by other road-users.

They will have to go through a thorough safety assessment before they are approved for on-road trials. They must also have a qualified safety driver who is ready to take over immediate control of the vehicle should the need arise.

But not everyone is convinced. Some, like homemaker Sarina Moh, are worried that the AVs might not be able to react and judge traffic conditions like humans, which could lead to accidents.

The 74-year-old who lives in Clementi said: “I do not understand how these vehicles work. It is scary to think that there’s no one driving them; it is not like a train where there is a track.

“If someone runs across the street, will they be able to stop in time? What if the vehicle makes a wrong decision and it bangs into someone on the pavement?”

Jurong West resident Liu Seng Tat, 29, said he is not confident of the driving ability and safety features of AVs, and he is concerned that these vehicles might not be able to follow traffic rules as well as humans can.

“I have not seen enough evidence to feel like I can trust these driverless vehicles, especially if I am crossing a zebra crossing or a traffic light junction, ” said the freelance writer. — The Straits Times/ANN

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