To meet Singapore's expanding transport needs, the Land Transport Authority is looking to create 8,000 new public transport jobs by 2030.
It is also investing S$25 million in funding for mobility-related innovation and technology to further modernise the country's public land transport, as part of efforts to improve efficiency, reliability and comfort for commuters.
All this will be part of the LTA's Industry Transformation Map (ITM), which was unveiled on Monday (Feb 12). Its vision is to create an innovative land transport industry enabled by technology and a highly competent workforce by 2030.
As part of the roadmap, LTA will "leverage emerging technologies", specifically in autonomous vehicle technology.
Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister of Transport Khaw Boon Wan said in his address at the unveiling of the ITM: "Autonomous vehicles have the potential to completely change the way we travel.
"Trials first began in 2015, and we have made good progress since," said Mr Khaw. "The technology is developing rapidly, and we are preparing for a pilot deployment of on-demand AV buses from 2022 for commuters in Punggol, Tengah and the Jurong Innovation District."
He also highlighted how the adoption of other technologies such as smart sensors and robotic drones will also "increase productivity and improve workers’ lives", especially in the maintenance line.
"For instance, railway maintenance can be enhanced using condition monitoring instruments. These smart sensors monitor the performance of the rail network, and flag out anomalies so that they can be fixed before a fault can occur," said Mr Khaw.
"Robotic drones will also take over dangerous or repetitive tasks. For example, rail and road tunnel inspections can be performed with greater ease and accuracy using aerial drones," he added. "Aerial drones are also deployed at selected Thomson East-Coast Line worksites to help our engineers monitor construction progress and identify defects through aerial footage."
UPSKILLING OF TRANSPORT WORKERS
LTA is looking at using technology to "hasten the move" towards creating higher value-added transport jobs for more professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), said Mr Khaw.
"To ensure that our public transport workers keep pace with industry development, we will up-skill workers, and re-skill them. This will be done through our institutes of higher learning, as well as centralised academies such as the Singapore Bus Academy and Singapore Rail Academy," he explained.
"Over 2,200 participants have benefited from Bus and Rail Academy courses to date. Workforce development programmes will also be mapped to the Public Transport Skills Framework, which has been developed to provide a clear pathway for skills upgrading and mastery."
The skills framework is expected to be launched in May, Mr Khaw said.
In response to concerns from workers who are worried that such autonomous vehicles might take away their jobs, National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU) executive secretary Melvin Yong said more will be done to help them re-skill.
"The industry isn’t going to shrink, but rather expand. My message to the workers is, do not worry. We’ll work together so that we can transit smoothly to those new jobs," said Mr Yong. "A lot of the new jobs would involve new technologies. For example when you introduce autonomous vehicles, there would be new engineering and technical jobs … and these are the areas we would be focusing our (training programs) on."
He added: "Our challenge would be to encourage our current workers to learn new skills. The message that we’ve been reiterating on the ground is that this need to learn new skills is real, not just in this industry but in many others as well."
"We’re going to try our best to create training programs that are bite-sized and convenient – it has to be easy for workers to take up these training courses. If (the openness to learn) becomes a culture at the workplace, it will make it easier for them to transit into those new jobs," said Mr Yong.
TECH-RELATED TRANSPORT JOBS
An example of tech-related hires that the LTA is looking for are data analysts. They will be required to study raw data collected, and use those numbers to solve problems such as those in maintenance and commuter traffic flow.
"Using commuter data, we can for instance, know that during a certain period, there are a lot of people travelling from this particular point to another point," said Mr Andrew Chow, president of the Software Systems Group at ST Electronics, who are the technology providers for the LTA. "With that information, we can then decide to deploy more buses to that area for that period of time."
"We can also know about the occupancy of buses and know at which time do I have full occupancy of buses. From the bus occupancy system, we can see which routes are optimum and which aren’t, which are full at certain times and which aren’t," explained Mr Chow. "That way, we can plan the (deployment) of buses more dynamically and that can be one way we can deploy data analytics."
He added: "Data analytics talks about data ingression … there’s a lot of data coming in and how do you look for problems you want to solve. From there you have data output, and you’d infer how this data will improve performance of your system."
"So you'll need personnel to help you to model data from the big load of raw information you have. The skills required to model data is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack and from there, you’ll need to solve problems using specific data that you sieved out," he said.