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How Singapore is harnessing technology to transform land and air transport

How Singapore is harnessing technology to transform land and air transport

At the
Ministry of Transport (MOT)’s Committee of Supply Debate 2018, Minister of
Transport Khaw Boon Wan and Second Minister of Transport Ng Chee Meng shed
light on how Singapore is harnessing technology to transform the city-state’s
land and air transport.

As
reported earlier, Singapore has launched the Land
Transport Industry Transformation Map
(ITM) last month and the Air
Transport ITM
last April outlining its plans to grow vibrant, innovative
and future-ready land and air transport sectors.

Minister
Khaw
and Second
Minister Ng
reiterated some of the key objectives of the Singapore
Government:

Land
transport: Moving towards a car-lite Singapore

According
to Minister Khaw Boon Wan, the Singapore Government facilitates the
introduction of car-sharing services and welcome the growth of private hire car
(PHC) services, as they have provided commuters with more on-demand and
point-to-point alternatives to owning a car.

While
such trends are making Singapore car-lite possible, Minister Khaw pointed out
that the point-to-point (P2P) industry is still consolidating.

“How
it consolidates can have serious implications on contestability and the welfare
of commuters and drivers. In other words, will the industry remain open and
contestable,” said Minister Khaw.

Second
Minister Ng said that the introduction of third-party booking apps and PHC
services has revolutionised the P2P industry in Singapore. 

He
said, “The PHC industry has significantly expanded the supply of P2P services,
especially during our peak hours. There are now more than 40,000 PHC drivers,
in addition to 96,000 licensed taxi drivers. The matching of demand and supply
is also enhanced through the platforms and through dynamic pricing.”

In
the growth of P2P Industry, Second Minister Ng claimed that commuters have
benefitted the most, citing the latest survey by the Public Transport Council
which found that commuter satisfaction has risen significantly, with almost 99%
of surveyed commuters satisfied with taxi and PHC services in 2017.

Although
taxi drivers were initially affected, they are now starting to reap some
benefits, such as more flexible rental schemes and lower rental rates offered
by taxi companies, and more choices of service platforms to drive for, and
additional revenue stream from additional booking channels.

Potentials
of autonomous vehicles

“Emerging
technologies are unsettling, but the opportunities to transform land transport
for the better are compelling,” Minister Khaw said.

One
of such emerging technologies is autonomous vehicles (AVs). Acknowledging that AVs
have the potential to transform transport, reinvent transport, Minister Khaw
shared that Singapore is working with some of the best in the world and in Singapore
to tap this exciting technology, which is still developing.

“We
are keenly watching where this technology will take us next, and the benefits
that it will bring to commuters. It is too early to say how widely adopted AV
technology will be by 2030, but the progress of AV trials overseas and in
Singapore is very encouraging,” he said.

In
Singapore, the AV test-bed at one-north was expanded to about 70km. As the
country gains experience and expertise, trials will expand to other precincts
and pilot the use of other vehicles. Minister Khaw named the examples of AV bus
and AV shuttle services in Punggol, Tengah and Jurong.

‍Source: Ministry of Transport

Air
Transport: Leveraging technology to reach new heights

The Singapore
Government can spur industry development and the growth of the transport sector
by championing research and development (R&D) and working with industry
players to develop new technologies and adopt innovative processes.

In
air transport, there are 2 areas of focus to leverage technology developments:
(1) airport operations and (2) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones. 

Airport operations

In
improving airport operations, some of the new technologies introduced include the
use of facial recognition to get passengers from the kerbside to the plane in a
speedy fashion and advanced CT X-ray machines which do not require passengers
to remove their laptops from their bags during security checks.

Collaboration
with industry is essential in spurring further adoption of technology. Second
Minister Ng cited the example of Singapore Airlines (SIA)’s Digital Innovation
Blueprint programme launched in January, in collaboration with the Agency for
Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Civil Aviation Authority of
Singapore (CAAS), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the National
University of Singapore (NUS).

As reported
earlier
, SIA aims to set up a Digital Innovation Lab and tap on data
analytics to further enhance customer experience as well as boost the
operational efficiency of its aircraft maintenance process.

According
to Second Minister Ng, the Singapore Government will continue to invest
significant resources into developing innovative processes and technologies to
entrench Changi as the world class hub it is today.

“CAAS
will launch an Aviation Transformation Programme (ATP) to promote the use of new
technologies like autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and augmented
reality, to improve airport operations,” he said.

The
ATP will focus on 4 crucial areas for the continued success of Singapore’s air
hub : (1) Strategic Air Traffic Management; (2) Seamless Ground Operations; (3)
Effective and Efficient Security; and (4) Premium Travel Experience.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Second
Minister Ng named unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as the second key
technological development in the air transport sector.

One of
the key application areas of UAS is in logistics, where UAS can quickly deliver
parcels by air to the end-customer. In time to come, UAS can potentially even
ferry people through the air, adding a new dimension to urban mobility.

At
the same time, the Singapore Government also recognises that UAS operations
could pose concerns about safety and security. These concerns must be addressed
before the full potential of the UAS can be realised.

Second
Minister Ng pointed out that given Singapore’s busy airspace and dense urban
environment, we need to be extra careful that UAS do not pose risks to manned
aircraft operations or public safety.

Having said all that, the Government has been pushing the boundaries in
exploring UAS in urban environment so as to seize the potential benefits that
the use of UAS could bring.

The
Land Transport Authority (LTA) is currently trialling the use of UAS to perform
rail and road tunnel inspections with greater ease and accuracy. In addition,
LTA has also deployed UAS at selected Thomson East-Coast Line worksites to help
engineers monitor construction progress and identify defects.

As reported
earlier
, one-north has been recently designated as a drone estate to serve
as a living lab and test bed for drone solutions.

“We are
indeed excited about the drone estate’s potential to spur more R&D on UAS
technologies and foster meaningful commercial partnerships. We intend to
progressively expand the scope and scale of the UAS activities there, bearing
in mind that we must do so responsibly and not compromise safety,” Second
Minister Ng said.

Source: Ministry of Transport

Regulatory framework

There
are concerned on whether Singapore has the necessary infrastructure and
legislative framework to deal with emerging technologies. In this regard, the
Singapore Government will continue to develop pro-innovation regulation

PHC and P2P industry

As PHC
is becoming an important part of the city-state’s land transport system, the
Government is reviewing regulations for the PHC industry, particularly given
the sheer size of the industry and the limitations to the current regulatory
regime which only have basic requirements on booking service operators to
protect commuter safety.

The
Government is reviewing the broader regulatory framework for the P2P sector,
including studying how to structure the industry and license PHC booking
service operators. Licensing will give the Government a broader range of
regulatory levers to ensure that the rapidly evolving PHC industry grows in a
manner which meets the needs of commuters, drivers, and the country’s broader
transport policy.

The development of AVs

Minister
Khaw said that the AV trials have given the Government insights into the gaps
which it will fill. This has led to amendments of the the Road Traffic Act to
facilitate AV efforts.

“We
will make further amendments if necessary. We have also launched a Request for
Information to seek inputs from industry and other experts,” Minister Khaw
said.

“If
you regulate too tightly, too early, nothing will happen. If you maintain a
light touch for too long, as happen in the bike-sharing situation, then you
have dis-amenities,” he added.

Preparing the transport workforce for the
future

Both
Minister Khaw and Second Minister Ng acknowledged the potential for emerging
technologies to disrupt the livelihoods of transport workers.

As
such, the Government is working closely with unions and the transport operators
to up-skill and re-skill and to transition some of them to adjacent vocations.
This is being done through institutes of higher learning, as well as through
the Singapore Bus Academy and Singapore Rail Academy.

LTA, SkillsFuture Singapore, National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU) and public
transport operators are jointly developing the Skills Framework for Public
Transport which will be launched in May. It aims to provide transport workers a
clearer picture of what skills they should develop as well as the programmes
available if they want to upgrade.

For
taxi and PHC drivers, Second Minister Ng reiterated that the Government will
continue to work closely with the National Taxi Association and National
Private Hire Vehicle Association to up-skill taxi and PHC drivers. It is also exploring
the possibility of having modules in the Taxi Driver’s Vocational Licence and
the PHC Driver’s Vocational Licence courses to help equip taxi and PHC drivers
with digital skills such as using navigational apps.

Levelling
up of capabilities of workers is also part of the vision for the air transport
sector, as outlined in Air Transport ITM which aims to create 4,700 good jobs
by 2020 and grow the value-add per worker.

In
the third quarter this year, the Skills Framework for Air Transport will be
launched to set out the core competencies and skills for all key air transport
jobs. This will serve as a reference for those who are already in the sector or
for those wanting to join the aviation industry. 

To
help air transport workers adapt to technological changes at the workplace to
their advantages, and take on new roles that will challenge and fulfil them
even more. This will also allow them to add greater value to their jobs and
their companies, and overall to our economy.

Recognising
the need to enhance the workforce’s Air Traffic Management (ATW) capabilities,
CAAS has taken the initiative to introduce a new scheme of service that will
provide air traffic controllers (ATCOs) more exposure across the range of ATM
functions and allow them to delve even deeper into specific functions. ATCOs
will even participate in the development of advanced software and hardware that
are more sophisticated than those available today.

Under
the new scheme, ATCOs can progress along 2 tracks of Management or Specialist
and build their expertise along either track.

Second
Minister Ng emphasised that MOT is committed to making travel even more
convenient and seamless, across the island and beyond, for Singaporeans. At the
same time, it will help workers to keep up with the changes and have good
careers in the transport sector

“We can look forward to a more liveable and
well-connected Singapore, supported by robust and effective transport systems,”
he concluded.

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