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October 26, 2017 2:15 PM, EDT
Driverless Truck Completes Delivery at ExxonMobil Facility in Singapore

Belgian logistics group Katoen Natie has started operating its first driverless truck at ExxonMobil’s manufacturing site on Jurong Island in Singapore.

The truck transported polymer products between the company’s packaging and intermediate storage facilities, Oct 24.

Katoen Natie said the autonomous truck project will be expanded gradually after a six-month trial to 12 trucks, moving some 3 million tons of product annually.

The company would not say how much the driverless truck cost, only to say that 70% of funding came from government subsidies. It added that the unmanned vehicle would pay for itself within a year.

The truck is guided by 3,800 transponders buried in the tarmac along a fixed route at a top speed of 25 kilometers per hour - the speed limit at the petrochemical complex. ExxonMobil said its next step would be to use GPS-guided trucks and eventually introduce unmanned trucks on public roads.

Katoen Natie Singapore CEO Koen Cardon said he sees a shortage of labor as a real challenge for the logistics group in the years ahead.

“We need to get smarter, and we need to get more productive,” he said. “This is exactly what we’re doing with this project.”

In consultation with Singapore Management University, which recommended Dutch autonomous vehicle specialist VDL as a partner, Katoen Natie fitted a 50-foot flatbed truck with sensors and guidance systems early this year. Between May and September, the truck underwent trials on-site.

“This project is a perfect example of the innovation we bring to the forefront to create value for our customers as well as creating the opportunities to upgrade the skills of our workforce,” Cardon said.

Elsewhere, Singapore is pushing ahead to roll out driverless vehicles in 2020.

In January, Scania and Toyota Tsusho signed an agreement with the Port of Singapore Authority and the Ministry of Transport to design, develop and test a truck-platooning system - where a human-driven truck leads a convoy of driverless trucks via wireless communications, for use on the roads.

ST Kinetics announced in April that it planned to put two autonomous buses on the road by October 2020.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC