The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was put forward for a second reading by Singapore’s minister for transport Ng Chee Meng earlier this week.
In a speech before parliament at the time, the minister said the proposed reforms would give the Singapore government the power to “create new rules to more effectively regulate” trials involving autonomous vehicles (AVs) or their use on public roads.
“These rules can place time and space limits on these trials, set standards for the design of the AV equipment, and impose requirements to share data from the trials,” Ng said.
Testing would only take place where developers of driverless cars “provide enough measures to ensure the safe operation of the AVs on our general roads”, he said.
Under the reforms, businesses involved in driverless cars testing in Singapore could gain exemption from some existing regulation that, among other things, requires human drivers to be in control of vehicles, and makes them responsible for driving decisions.
The reforms provided for under the new Bill allow new rules to “address the anomalies that can arise under existing provisions of the Road Traffic Act or its subsidiary legislation which make a human driver responsible for the safe use of a motor vehicle while on a public road”, Ng said.
The approach to regulation envisaged “will provide the flexibility needed to assess the appropriate regulatory response more quickly”, the minister said. Exemptions would last for five years, after which the Ministry of Transport “will consider enacting more permanent legislation, or return to Parliament to further extend the period of the [regulatory] sandbox”, he said.
The changes in legislation also include provisions aimed at addressing the rise of private hire car services, such as Uber and Grab, Ng said.
He said that, together with autonomous vehicles, private hire car (PHC) services can “enhance the efficiency and convenience of [Singapore’s] land transportation system” and move Singapore “closer towards a car-lite environment, where Singaporeans feel less of a need to own and move around in their own private vehicles”.
The reforms aim to enhance the safety of users of PHC services. Under the new laws, “all PHC drivers providing chauffeured services will be required to obtain vocational licences”, Ng said. In addition, those drivers will have to display “tamper-evident decals” for identification purposes “by the middle of the year”. The decals will be issued by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore, he said.
“Together with our existing rules that require PHCs to be licensed as public service vehicles and to have adequate insurance, these measures help LTA better enforce against errant drivers and vehicle owners,” Ng said.
Ng said that PHC booking operators will have to “put in place robust systems” to ensure their affiliated drivers and the PHC vehicles they use meet the new requirements and standards. Individual drivers could face suspension from driving with a PHC booking operator and, the operators themselves could also face a suspension of their services if the company “repeatedly makes no attempt to ensure that its affiliated drivers adhere to our laws”, the minister said.
The amendments also give the LTA the power to require PHC booking operators to share “trip and other fleet-related data” with it so as to help the authority “in its transport planning functions”, Ng said.
The minister said: “The proposed amendments allow new technologies to flourish in Singapore, and for us to take advantage of them to further improve our land transport system and benefit all Singaporeans. They strike a balance between such, and safeguarding passengers and other road users’ interests and safety.”
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