LTA to help prepare bus captains for self-driving buses
There are over 10,500 bus drivers in Singapore, many of whom may be wondering what the future holds for them as the country ramps up its efforts to move towards autonomous mobility.
Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary announced that all of western Singapore will be used as a test area for autonomous vehicles (AVs), while the Land Transport Authority (LTA) inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with eight industry stakeholders to upskill bus captains to handle autonomous buses in preparation for the expected deployment of the vehicles here.
The LTA said that it is in the midst of developing a training curriculum, and about 100 bus captains will be chosen based on prerequisites such as driving experience and drivers' record to undergo the programme.
More drivers will progressively be trained as autonomous technology improves, the LTA added.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Melvin Yong, assistant secretary-general of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), said the switch to self-drive buses will happen.
"These cycles of change come around every time there is new technology. Back in the day, there were bus conductors, and as ticketing machines came in, many now are drivers. The cycle of change will come again, and current drivers will learn to be safety operators or work in the control centres," he said.
"There are potential new jobs, we just have to make sure (employees) are ready for it."
One new role drivers can be trained for is that of the safety operator for an autonomous bus.
Safety operators take over immediate control of the bus should the need arise. They are also trained to remotely monitor the operation of the autonomous bus to ensure public safety.
The stakeholders that signed the MOU with the LTA were the National Transport Workers' Union, ST Engineering, SBS Transit, SMRT Buses, Tower Transit Singapore, Go-Ahead Singapore, Workforce Singapore and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute.
Speaking at the signing ceremony yesterday, chief executive of the LTA, Mr Ngien Hoon Ping, said: "The AV technology is still evolving, and there would be new job opportunities arising from the deployment of AVs, when the technology stabilises.
"The MOU will signify the commitment of the industry players to enter into a collaborative relationship for the development of industry-recognised training programmes to upskill our bus workforce, in particular, bus captains and help them stay relevant."
Bus driver Ramaiyan Dhanabalan believes he will still be relevant even with the introduction of AVs.
The 49-year-old, who has 14 years of experience as a bus driver, said: "There will still be a need for drivers to act as safety operators. It is about a mindset change, there will still be jobs, we just have to be willing to learn."