Transport Minister: ART system for Kuching City to operate with partial automation

Lee delivering his ministerial winding-up speech at the DUN sitting today (May 24, 2022). Screenshot taken from a Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) livestream on Facebook.

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By Yee Mei

KUCHING, May 24: The Autonomous Rapid Transit (ART) system for Kuching City will operate at Level 2, which is partial automation where vehicles can take control of vehicle speed and lane centring.

Transport Minister Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin revealed this during his ministerial winding-up speech during the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.

He explained that there are six levels of autonomous driving based on the definition by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J3016 Standard, namely:

  • Level Zero means no automation, meaning that the driver is always completely controlling the vehicle.
  • Level 1 is where driver assistance is needed to do all the driving but with some basic help from the vehicle in some situations such as automatic emergency braking or lane centring.
  • Level 2 is where there is partial automation whereby the vehicle can take control of both the vehicle’s speed and lane position in limited situations.
  • Level 3 is conditional automation, whereby the vehicle is in complete control in certain situations, monitors the road and traffic, and informs the driver when they must take control.
  • Level 4 is where there is high automation, and the vehicle can do all driving under nearly all conditions without any driver’s attention.
  • Level 5 is full automation, where the vehicle can drive in all situations without any human intervention.

“We need to correctly understand the meaning and levels of autonomy in the context of the Rapid Transit System.

“Based on the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J3016 Standard, I wish to re-affirm that there is no downgrading of the autonomous system,” he said.

He added that when the Sarawak government decided to implement the Kuching Urban Transportation System (KUTS) project, the term ‘Autonomous Rapid Transit’ (ART) was applied.

He said this in response to Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong (PH-DAP), who raised concerns over the ART project. She had asked Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg to clarify whether the ART project in Sarawak is defined as ‘Autonomous Rapid Transit’ or ‘Automated Rapid Transit’.

“We should not be carried away by debating over these trivial matters on the abbreviation as to whether it is autonomous or automated. It is made clear that this ART will have a driver to ensure its smooth operation and safety.

“I wish to reiterate that the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPA) government will only implement major projects after a proper study has been carried out. The findings suggested that the project should proceed based on the financial viability and technical feasibility,” said Lee.

Lee elaborated that a feasibility study on KUTS was carried out in 2017 by Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and completed in 2018.

He explained that the study was carried out by competent consultants who concluded that an urban public transport system is needed to address Kuching’s growing population and the corresponding increase in the number of trips by motor vehicles on the road.

Furthermore, the same feasibility study deduced the demand for a reliable and efficient transport system.

“The study also identified and recommended that the ART stations are based on transport demand for public transport. Therefore, the ridership was modelled during the scheme design for the proposed KUTS project,” he said.

He said that the suggestion made by Yong to abandon the ART project and only rely on the stage bus services shows her lack of knowledge and understanding in developing transport systems.

“On the statement made by Ahli Yang Berhormat for Pending on why not concentrate on the basics, which is the stage bus services, I wish to inform that it has never been the intention of the Sarawak government to neglect the operation of the stage bus services.

“What we have done and are still doing is to revive the present struggling stage bus services in Sarawak by introducing the RM1 Flat Rate Bus Fare Subsidy Programme.

“Through this programme, we expect more people to use the bus as the main mode of transport in the city area. At the same time, the revived bus companies are advised to gradually modernise their present fleet of buses for the convenience of passengers,” he said.

He said that the idea to modernise the urban public transport system in Sarawak started in 2009 when Abang Johari was the Minister for Housing and Urban Development.

“He was already thinking ahead on improving and modernising the transport system in Sarawak, especially in Kuching City.

“Therefore, the allegation by Ahli Yang Berhormat for Pending that it was a political decision, since assuming the office of Premier of Sarawak in 2017, to implement the ART is unfounded and baseless.” — DayakDaily