Driverless trucks to hit roads in September

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Belgian logistics group Katoen Natie will be testing 12 driverless trucks on Jurong Island, with the first slated to roll out in September.

These trucks will ply a fixed route on the island via transponders buried in the road.

Katoen Natie is working with Dutch technology company VDL to retrofit the trucks here with autonomous systems.

The work is being done on VDL's premises in Tuas.

Works are also ongoing to install the transponders in the road, which will communicate with the truck in the same way that a train's signalling system communicates with the track and other trains.

In the next phase, the trucks will be guided by satellite. Eventually, they will ply public roads.

In the initial phase, the trucks will do a round trip of between 6km and 8km between a packaging plant and a storage facility on Jurong Island.

Katoen Natie chief executive Koen Cardon said: "Truck drivers are hard to find in Singapore.Most of them are over 50 years old and young people have no desire to become a truck driver."

He said driverless trucks can bring substantial savings.

"To operate 12 trucks 24 hours a day and seven days a week, you need four teams of 12 drivers.

"These drivers will not all be made redundant, but can be assigned to other job functions in our company."

Katoen Natie's autonomous truck project leader Wallace Tay said the trucks will be manned initially.

"There will be someone on board for the first three to four months," he added. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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