Driverless road sweepers put to test again, targeted for Marina coastal area by end-2024


SINGAPORE – Environmental services firm Chye Thiam Maintenance aims to deploy two driverless road sweepers in a trial on public roads in the Marina coastal area by the end of 2024.

The road sweepers can operate round the clock while being monitored remotely by an operator, to enhance safety and optimise operational flexibility and efficiency.

During the trial, however, each of the vehicles will also have a driver on board to ensure safety.

The test comes more than three years after similar trials were done in designated small-scale environments in one-north, Nanyang Technological University and CleanTech Park at Jurong Innovation District.

In a Facebook post on June 12, Minister for Transport Chee Hong Tat, who recently visited Chye Thiam Maintenance, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was working with the company on the trial.

“If the pilot is successful, the technology solution could help Chye Thiam Maintenance and other cleaning companies to meet their manpower and business needs in a tight labour market,” he added.

Each of the company’s two electric autonomous road sweepers has 12 cameras and five light detection and ranging (Lidar) remote sensing systems that use laser pulses to map the surroundings and navigate.

A road sweeper has a 360-degree view of the road. The Lidars on the front of the vehicle can detect objects ahead up to 1m away, and the vehicle will stop to avoid collision.

In preparation for the deployment, Chye Thiam Maintenance sent two staff members to the Guangzhou headquarters of the road sweepers’ manufacturer, leading Chinese autonomous-driving technology developer WeRide. There, they conducted checks and acceptance tests, and underwent safety and operational training.

Chye Thiam Maintenance also has over 20 mechanical road sweepers and more than 200 diesel-powered vehicles, and intends to have a fully electric fleet in the long term.

The company said it aims to redesign the job, and upskill their existing drivers to operate the electric vehicles. It also believes that unlike the traditional job, remote operations might attract more younger employees.

The firm’s longer-term plan is for one remote operator to monitor up to eight road sweepers simultaneously.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) aims to develop capability in adapting autonomous vehicle technology for road sweeping, as part of its efforts to drive industry transformation for the cleaning sector.

NEA said its Autonomous Environmental Service Vehicles (AESV) proof-of-concept trials in 2021 achieved its project objectives and passed preliminary tests by the LTA.

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