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Autonomous Vehicles In Singapore And Fleet Management - Here Is What You Need To Know

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From robotic police officers to robotic contactless deliveries, Singapore is a hub of futuristic technological advancements and leading the way with autonomous vehicles.

While these self-driving vehicles embody safety and convenience, how prepared are you for the business challenges that come with implementing them into your fleet? 

You’re about to unpack how Cartrack can help you easily breeze through the AV tech-storm.

In this article, you will:

  • Learn what autonomous vehicles are
  • Understand the state of autonomous vehicles in Singapore
  • Find out exactly how these self-driving vehicles work
  • Discover how Cartrack’s tech helps you tackle any AV challenges

What are autonomous vehicles?

Imagine a world where a vehicle can stop at a red light, drive into the right lane, and avoid road obstacles without any human being sitting inside of it. Well, that world is here.

This is thanks to autonomous vehicles, which are often referred to as self-driving or driverless vehicles. These advanced vehicles are capable of sensing their environment and effectively operating with little to no human involvement. The autonomy levels of these vehicles may vary, ranging from basic driver-assist features to full autonomy, where no human input is needed. 

Autonomous vehicles: Nothing new for Singapore

Singapore is no stranger to autonomous vehicles, considering that the nation’s first test centre to support the integration of these driverless vehicles into Singapore's roads was launched six years ago. Singapore was the first country in the world to test self-driving taxi services, and since then, the growth of these vehicles has been tremendous. On December 12th, 2023, WeRide, China’s autonomous vehicle company, obtained two licenses to begin testing on public roads in Singapore.

Channel News Asia (CNA) has reported on how we have the MooBus, an electric autonomous bus that was deployed by MooVita. Launched on January 9th, 2023, the free shuttle ferries passengers from King Albert MRT and around Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP). But the technology doesn’t stop with public transport, because we also have Auto-Dolly and Auto-DollyTug. These autonomous vehicles operate at Singapore Changi Airport to transport baggage to and from the plane and terminal and are equipped with safety features to recognise humans and obstacles on the road.

How do autonomous vehicles work?

Autonomous vehicles make use of a variety of sensors that act as the “eyes” of the vehicle. These sensors, which are used in combination with complex algorithms, machine learning systems, and powerful processes, can create and maintain a map of their surroundings, allowing them to perceive the environment and make safe driving decisions. The information these systems gather is processed by the vehicle’s software, which controls the vehicle’s movements, such as steering, braking, and acceleration, in a way that is similar to how a human driver works.

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What are the 3 main tasks that fully autonomous vehicles need to do?

Effectively navigating the autonomous road involves a sequence of three interconnected tasks. Let’s unpack them in detail:

1. Environment perception and understanding:

This involves creating and maintaining a map of the vehicle’s surroundings based on data from various sensors, such as radar sensors to monitor nearby vehicles, video cameras to detect traffic lights, road signs, and pedestrians, and other environmental sensors that can detect weather conditions. The software then analyses and interprets this data to create a real-time picture of the external world, which involves accurately identifying and classifying objects, understanding their actions and intentions, and detecting possible hazards.

2. Path planning:

Path planning is a crucial task for autonomous vehicles, involving the strategic decision-making process to determine the most optimal route to a destination while navigating obstacles and adhering to various road regulations. The vehicle's sensors perceive the surrounding environment, capturing data about the road, traffic signs, pedestrians, and other vehicles. By using this information, the vehicle localises itself within the environment. Path planning algorithms then analyse this data, considering factors such as road conditions, traffic regulations, dynamic obstacles, weather, and vehicle capabilities. With this detailed understanding of the environment, the vehicle can generate a safe and efficient route plan.

3. Vehicle control and navigation:

Once the vehicle has perceived its surroundings, the next critical step involves precise control over its movements. The control system coordinates the steering, acceleration, and braking, which all work together to execute the planned maneuvers smoothly and safely. The vehicle's software translates the decisions made by the algorithm into specific actions that ensure safe and smooth operation. This process requires a precise control system that is capable of adapting to real-time environmental changes while maintaining a safe distance from other objects. Advanced algorithms optimise acceleration and braking to ensure safety and facilitate a comfortable and fuel-efficient journey.

The technology that powers these tasks

These three main tasks are enabled by the following technological implementations:

1. Perception:

Autonomous vehicles are equipped with a multitude of sensors to perceive their surroundings. These include:

  • LiDAR (light detection and ranging): These emit laser pulses to create a 3D map of the environment.
  • Cameras: Provide visual information about traffic lights, lane markings, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
  • Radar: Detects the presence and relative speed of other vehicles on the road.
  • Ultrasonic sensors: Similar to parking sensors, these detect nearby objects that are at short distances.
  • Data fusion: The information from all these sensors is combined and processed to create a comprehensive understanding of the environment, which is what is used to plan travel routes.

2. Route mapping:

  • High-definition maps: Autonomous vehicles rely on detailed maps that include lane markings, traffic signals, and other relevant information. These maps are constantly updated with real-time traffic data, which the vehicles use to determine their current position.
  • Optimal route planning: By making use of the detailed map and real-time location data, the vehicle’s software calculates the safest and most efficient routes to the destination.
  • Decision-making: By making use of the recorded data, the software makes decisions about speed, lane changes, and other driving maneuvers, following traffic rules, and prioritising safety.

3. Vehicle control and navigation

  • Actuators: These are the muscles of the vehicle, responsible for controlling the steering wheel, brakes, and accelerator, turning the planned route into reality.
  • Control algorithms: The software sends instructions to the actuators based on the planned path and real-time conditions.

All this information from the sensors is combined and processed by the vehicle’s AI system. It’s like putting together a giant puzzle of the road, understanding the location of lanes, vehicles, pedestrians, and other objects.

What are the benefits of autonomous vehicles in Singapore?

Autonomous vehicles are the epitome of convenience, but just how beneficial are they in Singapore? Here are their top 3 benefits:

1. Reduction in traffic deaths:

According to data from Singapore Police Force statistics, Singapore recorded a total of 6,883 road traffic accidents, with 8,549 total casualties recorded in the same year. This is an increase of over 13% from the previous year's recording of 6,039 road traffic accidents. While they can’t completely put a stop to road accidents, autonomous vehicles can play a significant role in lowering accident rates. Thanks to their high-precision technology, autonomous vehicles can view the environment in a 360-degree range, which is twice as much as humans, who only have a viewing angle of 180 degrees horizontally. This reduces human error and misbehaviour that can cause deadly car accidents.

2. Reduction in harmful emissions:

According to Medium, Singapore’s cars release around 6.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions. This is one of the reasons the Singaporean government has positively discouraged private car dependence. According to a 2022 study, the adoption of autonomous vehicles can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 34% of the total emissions from transportation by 2050. By making use of sensors that ensure adherence to road rules in real time, AVs can avoid high-speed driving, excessive braking, and unnecessary acceleration, which are all common contributing factors to increased vehicle emissions. When integrated with traffic management systems that work to optimise routes, idle time and traffic congestion are reduced, which significantly minimises emissions caused by stop-and-go traffic.

3. Improved fuel economy:

Due to their ability to optimise routes, autonomous vehicles can improve a fleet’s fuel economy. Research shows that route optimisation can reduce fuel costs by up to 20%. Due to autonomous vehicles being able to analyse their surroundings and determine the best travel route, they can significantly lower fuel consumption by reducing mileage and avoiding congested roads and traffic. Autonomous vehicles also drive based on road rules and regulations, which ensures that safe driving habits are implemented. This helps put an end to fuel-wasting driving behaviours, such as idling, sudden acceleration, and harsh braking. Also, the reduction of these behaviours leads to smoother, more consistent travel speeds, which positively impacts fuel efficiency, lowers wear and tear, and decreases fleet running costs.

What challenges can autonomous vehicles bring?

Autonomous vehicles aren’t without challenges, and if they’re not addressed, they can become an even bigger problem for fleets. These are three of the most serious challenges:

1. Technological

  • Data security and privacy: Due to how technologically driven they are, AVs can generate large amounts of data, ranging from their surroundings and routes taken to travel routines and passengers. While this can be quite convenient, it has raised concerns about data security and privacy. Keeping this data out of the wrong hands is a big concern. Also, AVs are vulnerable to cyberattacks that could manipulate their operations or steal sensitive data. A report by the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) found that autonomous vehicles are vulnerable to hacking because of the advanced computers they house. This can be extremely dangerous for passengers and other people on the road.
  • Sensor accuracy and reliability: AVs rely on various sensors for navigation, obstacle detection, and other functions. Sensor malfunctions or inaccuracies could lead to accidents or operational disruptions. Sensors can struggle in poor weather conditions, low light, and complex environments, leading to the misinterpretation of surroundings and potentially causing accidents.

2. Economic

  • High initial investment: The upfront cost of acquiring and implementing AV technology into a fleet can be quite substantial, being significantly higher than traditional vehicles. This can pose a financial challenge, especially for smaller fleets. On top of this, the high operational costs and a lack of revenue can hinder businesses from adopting them, and with the long-term cost savings and benefits of autonomous vehicles still unknown, it can be difficult to justify the initial investment.
  • Maintenance and repair costs: Due to their complexities, the maintenance of autonomous vehicles can be more costly and time-consuming than traditional vehicle maintenance. AVs have numerous components, including cameras and sensors, that require regular maintenance and repair, which requires specialised skills and expertise. To ensure that unplanned downtime and vehicle damage are avoided, maintenance needs to remain a top priority, which can be quite costly.
  • Connectivity and network infrastructure: Reliable and high-bandwidth communication networks are vital for the real-time tracking and remote control of AVs. While Singapore has a fantastic communication network, the issue is the high-density urban typology. Most of the 1.4 million lots in Singapore are in multi-storey car parks, with a large number of them being underground. This poses a serious issue, as there is typically little to no network in car parks.

Other commonly unforeseen challenges:

  • Unforeseen technical issues: The technology used for AVs is still under development, and unforeseen technical issues could arise, impacting safety and reliability.
  • Impact on insurance premiums: The potential risks associated with AVs may lead to higher insurance premiums for fleet owners

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How can Cartrack’s tech help you master any AV challenge?

Cartrack is aware of the challenges that implementing autonomous vehicles into your fleet can pose, and we aim to bring you solutions for some of these challenges. These include:

  1. Preventative maintenance: Keep an eye on every aspect of your fleet’s health at all times with Cartrack’s preventative maintenance. Due to how complex autonomous vehicles are, they require more servicing than traditional vehicles. Unlike traditional vehicles, where drivers can pick up on a mechanical issue quite soon, this isn’t the case with AVs. By sending you real-time alerts the moment a mechanical issue occurs (e.g., engine faults, worn brake pads, oil and water fluctuations), you can quickly attend to them before they become costly and dangerous. Cartrack’s preventative maintenance system looks at these alerts, vehicle utilisation hours, and the time of each vehicle’s last maintenance to build a personalised maintenance plan.
  2. Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS): Prevent costly vehicle collisions with ADAS. While AVs make use of world-class sensors, you still need to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, which in this case is these sensors acting up. With automatic emergency braking (which detects possible collisions and automatically applies the brakes to reduce the impact or avoid a collision altogether) and adaptive cruise control (which automatically adjusts the vehicle’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead), you can enhance the safety of your autonomous vehicles.
  3. Geofencing: Be notified the moment your vehicle drives outside of approved zones with Cartrack’s geofencing feature. By creating virtual boundaries for vehicles, you can restrict their access to specific areas on a map and receive real-time alerts the moment the vehicle enters these restricted areas. This helps you detect unauthorised access to AVs, which can indicate potential cyber-attacks and unauthorised interference. This ensures that the vehicles operate within approved areas.
  4. Cartrack's trip reports: Review every trip your AVs take with Cartrack’s trip reports. Easily accessible through the Cartrack app or website, these trip reports are generated from data collected by the system’s AI-powered cameras and sensors. Detailed vehicle logs provide a comprehensive record of each vehicle's trips, including the start and end locations, routes taken, and distance travelled. While you don't have drivers, you can use scorecards to look at vehicle performance during each trip, as this takes into account factors such as speeding, harsh braking, and excessive idling. These faults could indicate that one or more of your vehicle sensors are faulty, indicating that repairs are needed.
  5. Real-time GPS tracking: Keep a constant eye on your autonomous fleet by making use of our world-class GPS tracking. By giving you real-time access to your fleet's exact location, you can ensure that your vehicles are always following the correct route and adhering to traffic rules. By ensuring your AVs are using the correct routes, you can reduce mileage and fuel wastage caused by excessive idling, thereby optimising efficiency and cost reduction.
  6. Stolen Vehicle Recovery: In the unfortunate event that hackers gain access to your vehicle, you want to be able to track it down and recover it as soon as possible. Our stolen vehicle recovery helps you with this by making use of real-time GPS tracking and vehicle monitoring to quickly track the location of your vehicle and work to recover it. With an above 90% externally audited recovery rate, you can gain peace of mind knowing that your vehicle is protected 24/7, and that you have a team of skilled units that will work tirelessly to get your vehicle back to you.

Cartrack: The innovative solution for autonomous vehicle challenges in Singapore

As a model smart nation, Singapore’s advancements in autonomous vehicle implementation are providing a boost to its sustainability efforts. While these vehicles may come with challenges, Cartrack is the perfect partner for your AV fleet. 

Contact us today, and let’s keep your autonomous fleet running at its optimum level together.

Singapore is the hub of futuristic technological advancements and is leading the way with autonomous vehicles. Elevate your AV fleet operation with an effective fleet management solution and say goodbye to AV challenges today.