The Singapore government has this week announced that it is exploring the use of self-driving vehicles for street cleaning purposes.
The government’s National Environment Agency (NEA) and Ministry of Transport (MOT) departments have issued a request for information, asking for private firms to propose how they would achieve this.
They hope that the information gathered could be used as part of preparations for subsequent procurement for trials and demonstrations.
Cleaning the streets
Currently, the cleaning of public areas in Singapore is carried out manually by a mechanical road sweeping vehicle (MS) for public roads, or a pavement sweeper vehicle which cleans pavements.
Therefore, the NEA and MOT are looking for information on self-driving multi-purpose utility vehicles (MPUVs), which it says are likely to find cleaning tasks much easier than manual vehicles.
It backs this up with claims that MPUVs could be monitored by an on-site operator or tracked remotely, using live footage, GPS and short reports with photos of areas cleaned.
Concerns about self-driving vehicles remain
Having said that, there are concerns about whether self-driving vehicles will be accepted by the cleaning sector. Walter Theseira, senior lecturer at SIM University, said this will come down to “relative costs”, especially as the aim is to “get the job done at the lowest cost.”
There are also questions about the viability and safety of self-driving technology, particularly following reports that a self-driving vehicle crashed in a trial test in Singapore yesterday.
Despite this, the NEA and MOT said “In the longer term, boosting the productivity levels in the delivery of public services will bring about cost and time savings and better deployment of manpower resources.”
Submissions for the RFI, which is listed on Government procurement website GeBiz, must be made by Dec 28.
Making Singapore a smart nation
This is the latest in a string of moves in the Singaporean government’s Smart Nation 2025 strategy – a bid to make Singapore a connected and smart nation, rather than a cluster of smart cities.
The government has also recently merged two agencies covering IT and digital media to create the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), as reported in ReadWrite. Supposedly, the IMDA is involved in a broad array of initiatives that include Internet of Things, drones, virtual reality and smart city technology.
Gabriel Lim, the newly installed CEO of IMDA, says the government pivot towards the connected economy is the latest example of Singapore adapting its economy to global trends.