Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) is collaborating with the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to start testing self-driving buses, as the city state pushes to reduce the number of vehicles plying the town while also maximising the number of commuters on board each vehicle.

"They say big dreams start small, so we are collaborating with NTU on an autonomous bus trial, starting with two electric hybrid buses," the transport regulator said in a Facebook post.

Under the agreement, LTA and NTU will conduct joint research to enhance existing rail networks through real-time condition monitoring and also conduct trials for a fully-autonomous 12-metre bus, which is the first-of-its-kind in Singapore. These projects will be conducted under the ambit of the LTA-NTU Transport Research Centre (TRC), which was set up in November 2015 to conduct research and technical trials for innovative technologies in the transport industry.

As part of LTA’s Request for Information (RFI) on autonomous mobility concepts issued in June 2015, LTA will partner the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) to develop autonomous bus technologies, which include conducting a self-driving bus trial for fixed and scheduled services for intra- and inter-town travel.

Under this collaboration, ERI@N will test and develop their self-driving vehicle technology with two electric hybrid buses. The collaboration aims to outfit existing buses with a suite of intelligent sensors and develop a self-driving system that can effectively navigate Singapore’s local road traffic and climate conditions.

The roads between NTU and CleanTech Park, which is located within Jurong Innovation District, have been earmarked as potential test routes for the self-driving bus trial. LTA expects the trial to be extended in future to ferry commuters from NTU and Cleantech Park to Pioneer MRT station. The self-driving buses will feature charging technology that will enable them to be recharged when they stop at a bus depot or bus stops.

At the same time, LTA and NTU will embark on a research study to develop and design a real-time condition monitoring prototype to detect early signs of defects in traction power systems, so as to enhance preventive maintenance of the rail network. This will be done using a patented technology with fault diagnostic capability that can be used around the clock without disrupting normal train operations.