Scania AB and Toyota Tsusho will soon begin developing self-driving trucks for transporting containers between terminals at the Port of Singapore (PSA). The vehicles will be equipped for "platooning," in which a lead truck is operated by a human driver and a number of semi-autonomous, unmanned trucks follow closely behind it.
The truck platooning trials will take place in two phases. The first phase will focus on designing, testing and refining the technology, and it will be run by Scania and Toyota at their respective research centers. The second phase will consist of trials on a six-mile highway route between Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 1 and Brani Terminal at PSA.
“Trucking as we know it today is a highly labor-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,” said Pang Kin Keong, permanent secretary for Transport and chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport in Singapore (CARTS).
Singapore has nearly 1 million vehicles, but with only 280 square miles of land area, the small city-state is running out of places to put them all. Advocates of autonomous vehicles – including self-driving buses and taxis, which are also in active testing in Singapore – say that the technology will increase utilization and decrease the number of vehicles required, reducing traffic. PSA adds that for the port in particular, it will also allow more freight movement at night, easing congestion during the day.
“Autonomous vehicles and platooning are cornerstones of future sustainable transport systems,” said Claes Erixon, head of R&D at Scania. “We are pioneering in this field, which has the potential not only to save lives in traffic, but also to significantly decrease the environmental impact of transport.”
If successful, the trials may be scaled up to include haulage within the port area, and once the first phase of Singapore's new Tuas Port is built the platoons may carry cargo between Pasir Panjang and Tuas as well.