Singapore's first self-driving truck plies Jurong Island

Logistic company Katoen Natie targets to release 11 more self-driving trucks soon.

Logistics company Katoen Natie on Tuesday, October 24, tested Singapore's first-ever self-driving truck at oil company ExxonMobil's manufacturing hub on Jurong Island. The truck will run 24 hours a day and seven days a week for six months as part of the pilot.

The Belgian logistics company's driverless truck will be used to carry products from its packaging hub to its intermediate storage facility for around eight kilometres per round trip. According to company officials, the self-driving truck will be hitting public roads soon.

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If the test is deemed a success, 11 more trucks will be added, which is expected to transport a total of around three million tonnes of cargo a year. Each vehicle can carry 250,000 tonnes of cargo annually.

The arrival of self-driving trucks is an answer to Singapore's rising need of manpower in the driving industry where there are only a few people choosing this career path. Katoen Natie chief executive office Koen Cardon notes autonomous vehicles are cost-efficient and can be more productive in ways.

"Normally you need about four drivers for one truck; they will now be replaced by one supervisor who is working from the remote station, so that is a massive improvement in terms of productivity," says Cardon. He adds, "We see a growing shortage of drivers, young people are not choosing a career in driving a truck and in Singapore; we see the population of drivers – a lot of them are aging."

In the automotive industry, safety has been a primary concern, and with mechanical self-driving vehicles, safety is three times a major priority. In response to this concern, the company uses demarcated speed zones with regulated speed controls built into the truck, signs on roads within the facility and on the truck and a safety bumper that would trigger an emergency stop when it touches an object.

The roll-out on Jurong Island is the second phase of the pilot project. On its final stage, self-driving trucks will be brought to public highways.