Land Transport Authority (LTA) has expanded vehicle testing zones to a region covering Western Singapore to allow more autonomous vehicle (AV) companies to apply for trials.

The company currently operates on-road trialing facilities in Buona Vista, CleanTech Park, Jurong Island, Nanyang Technological University and Sentosa.

The agency has expanded the testbed to create a more varied testing environment for AV technology development.

The new testbed will open up more than 1,000km of public roads, allowing AV companies to conduct on-road testing in various traffic scenarios and road conditions.

According to LTA, the move will support the testing of AV capabilities and allow companies to safely offer inter-town services and longer-haul journeys. It aims to assist the companies in the planned pilot deployment of AVs in early 2020.

LTA expects to gradually introduce AV trials over the next several years.

It will also engage local grassroots and community leaders to approve any plans to conduct AV trials in their specific constituencies.

In a statement, the agency said: “As is the case today, any new trials will begin in a limited manner within a small area. Any further expansions in trials will only be permitted after the AVs pass stringent tests designed to demonstrate a higher level of competency.”

LTA will ensure all AVs undergo a thorough safety assessment before they are approved for on-road trials. Each vehicle will also require a qualified safety driver.

Each test vehicle will display decals and markings for easy identification by other road users.