Credit: Verdict

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are vehicles that can drive themselves without human intervention. AVs have the potential to improve road safety, reduce traffic congestion, and increase mobility and accessibility. However, AVs also pose many challenges and risks, such as cybersecurity, ethical dilemmas, legal liability, and social acceptance. Malaysia is one of the countries that is exploring the possibility of adopting AVs in the future. However, there are many factors that need to be considered before Malaysia can be ready for AVs. Some of these factors include:

– The readiness of the infrastructure and regulations to support AVs
– The availability and affordability of AV technology and services
– The awareness and education of the public and stakeholders on the benefits and risks of AVs
– The impact of AVs on the environment, economy, and society

According to a post on Instagram by Futurise, My Autonomous Vehicle (MyAV), a division of the state-owned Cyberview under MoF Inc, is now open to the general public.

In Cyberjaya, the first test routes for autonomous vehicles in Malaysia were established in November 2020. A month later, in December 2020, the self-driving car test routes were approved. eMoovit Technology was the first business to be given permission to utilise the path for its driverless vehicle testing ground.

Based on the Futurise website, further MyAV test routes have been established outside of Cyberjaya in Putrajaya and Putri Iskandar, Johor. While the test route in Putrajaya will concentrate on the use of Connected ITS (CITS), red light running, sensor crossings for pedestrians and collision avoidance, the testing site in Johor will concentrate on the usage of public transit and electric buses.

As reported at the end of 2020, there are two routes; the first, Route A, is the shorter of the two that goes around the Futurise and Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) premises, while the second, longer route, Route B, covers Persiaran Rimba Permai, Persiaran Cyberpoint 5, Persiaran Apec and Persiaran Cyberpoint Selatan. Combined, the route covers a distance of 7.85 km, according to Futurise.

From the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section of the Futurise website, the firm states that organisations that take part in this trial are required to conduct their trials along Route A for a duration of at least six months, and then proceed to continue trials on the longer Route B for at least 12 months.

According to Mohd Amri Mohd Din, the COO of local AI automation company Reka, the initial rollout of autonomous vehicles is expected to happen in specific industries such as logistics and manufacturing where there is currently a demand for them.

“So if you’re looking from a commercial point of view, the rollout for autonomous vehicles will be into this kind of specific niche industries, where you need to use a high level of automation to increase efficiency,” he told SunBiz.

He said that autonomous vehicles have lower interest compared to electric vehicles (EV) due to lower demand for automation.

Mohd Amri stressed that there is a need for this infrastructure to enable adoption for public use.

“For instance, Singapore started testing autonomous vehicles for public use by dedicating specific lanes for them in certain sections of the city and implementing speed limits for these vehicles. This is one of the easiest ways to implement autonomous vehicles in the country,” he suggested.

Singapore has been named the globe’s top country for autonomous driving (slipping ahead of the Netherlands). The entire western part of the city-state has become a testing ground for AVs under plans unveiled by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in 2019. In total, the real-world testbed sees more than 1,000km of public roads opened up for self-driving vehicle trials and data gathering. 

Is Malaysia ready for Autonomous Vehicles?

Changing cars isn’t something many of us can do on a whim, and we probably feel hesitant to do so too, especially if our current vehicles are still reliable.

But what if there was something that met you in the middle? You get to keep using your beloved car, except that it’s now smarter with autonomous driving capabilities.

That is at the core of what the Kommu team wants to do.

Essentially, Kommu’s solution, KommuAssist, turns existing cars into Level 2 autonomous vehicles. There are six total levels of driving automation by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

Being a Level 2 advanced driver-assistance system, KommuAssist still requires the driver’s attention.

According to the Journal of the Society of Automotive Engineers Malaysia, the direction for Malaysia to adopt AV very much depends on several factors to be discussed here, namely Technology and Innovation, Infrastructure, Public Acceptance as well as Policy and Legislation.

(i) Technology and Innovation

Currently, there are plenty of research and development efforts in Malaysia to improve AVs. As stated earlier, there are a lot of studies focusing on the improvements of AV technologies such as the camera detection mechanism (Hasan etal., 2009), sensors, controlling systems, and GPS navigation (Zakaria etal., 2013). These are steps in the right direction. However, for AV to move further forward, there must be more investments and efforts to test the technologies with larger passenger vehicles. The technology will eventually obtain maturity through making multiple iterations, continuous testing and implementing further improvements. This will require time and funding for the AV tobe safely deployed for public consumption.

(ii) Infrastructure

Clearly, Malaysian road infrastructure lacks the technology for AVs to properly operate. For a country to be ready to implement AVs, proper infrastructure is required for AVs’ safe deployment. Since the technology is still at its infancy, a controlled environment is required for a safe test run to be conducted. A suggested plan of action is to allocate an already established road to become a testing ground for researchers. The test roads must include a large variety of possible scenarios for the AV to react to, for example, a narrow road, a congested road with traffic, and during rainy weather. Density of EV charging stations is also a factor in improving the infrastructure for the new technology. The presence of EV charging stations will reflect the commitment of a country to update their road environment with new technologies.

(iii) Public Acceptance

Most Malaysians are uncertain of the prospect of the AV technology due to its scarcity. In several countries, one way of negating the scepticism is by letting the public participate in the testing phases of the AV. This includes providing ride sharing services, and inviting them to participate in the test runs which will also help buildtrust in the technology. A study in France has shown that AV test runs which included participation from the public helps in garnering trust towards the technology and system (Piao etal., 2016).

(iv) Policy and Legislation

The Government of Malaysia’s policies that address AVs are obviously lacking. Policymakers shoulder the responsibilities in ensuring safe deployment of the AV. Their decision to allow new technologies should benefit both the technology developers and the public. One of the ways to handle this situation is by introducing clear policies on AVs. Without adequate focus on this emerging technology, its development shall be stunted. Policymakers should thus actively work alongside the industry to ensure its growth.

Therefore, Malaysia needs to conduct more research and development, pilot testing, and public consultation on AVs to ensure that they are safe, reliable, and beneficial for the country.

Credit: RTA

Meanwhile, in Dubai, his majesty a framework of rules controlling autonomous cars has been established by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

According to the law, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is responsible for setting technical, operational, and safety standards for the vehicles as well as creating policies and strategies to improve the operation of autonomous vehicles in Dubai.

Along with establishing speed limits and the framework for controlling other elements of autonomous vehicle operations, the Authority is also in charge of defining the roads, regions, and routes that they operate on. Among other things, RTA is responsible with creating the infrastructure required for autonomous vehicle operation and the traffic management strategies required to guarantee road safety and prevent traffic jams.

Additionally, the RTA is in charge of providing permits for autonomous cars. Any autonomous vehicle-related activity must be licenced by the Director General and Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA.

The law also outlines the prerequisites for acquiring a licence to engage in autonomous vehicle-related activities. The ability to interpret road signs technologically and passing the RTA’s technical test are important prerequisites.

In accordance with the Law, all pertinent Dubai government agencies must work with RTA to fulfil its obligations in the field of autonomous cars.

In areas not specifically addressed by a provision of the new law, the provisions of Federal Law No. (21) of 1995 Concerning Road Traffic, its executive rules and revisions, pertinent judgements, and any other legislation that replaced them continue to apply.

To reach the Innovate Tech Show editorial team on your feedback, story ideas and pitches, contact us here.