Malaysia set to debut driverless bus system

The IMBRT will begin a 3-month pilot programme starting April

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic credit:

MALAYSIA is poised to be the first country in South-East Asia to have a fully automated driverless bus transportation system, soon to be established at Iskandar Malaysia in Johor.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) CEO Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said Iskandar Malaysia would be the first city in Malaysia and South-East Asia to test the automatic rapid transit system through the pilot programme.

The self-driving bus transportation system, known as the Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit (IMBRT), will begin a three-month pilot programme starting April.

“IMBRT would be a new public transport solution in Malaysia, especially in Johor, to provide environmentally friendly public transport solutions as well as to help the economy of the targeted group,” Ismail said in a virtual media briefing on the IMBRT progress update yesterday.

The implementation cost of the IMBRT project is around RM2.56 billion, with RM1 billion to be funded by the federal government, while the rest will be funded through private-public collaboration.

The IMBRT project is expected to be fully completed within the next two years. The pilot programme will be conducted by IRDA along the Lebuhraya Sultan Iskandar between Horizon Hill and Anjung in Medini.

It will see the involvement of nine bus suppliers that will conduct a demonstration of the latest green bus technologies including electric and biodiesel.

The participating suppliers will showcase buses ranging from 6m 12m to 32m.

Ismail noted the pilot programme is important to determine the system and efficiency of the IMBRT, as well as to enable regulators to provide final decisions.

“This is the initial stage of testing before we determine which bus suppliers will be involved in the project. The nine bus suppliers are local and international companies,” he explained.

“IRDA will determine the appropriate technologies and systems to be used in this pilot programme based on current needs.”

The IMBRT project is expected to begin in the fourth quarter (4Q) of this year after all matters including design and land acquisition process are completed.

Ismail added that IRDA is currently still in the early stages of designing and land acquisition for several major terminal sites and in the process of getting approval from the authorities to start the work.

On Iskandar Malaysia’s investment target, Ismail said IRDA has slightly reduced its investment target this year to RM17 billion compared to the total investment of RM24 billion received in 2020.

“Although we have set a lower target, we believe based on the current situation and the availability of Covid-19 vaccine, the total investment this year will exceed the set target. IRDA expects investment to pick up again in 3Q and 4Q of this year,” he added.

Still, he said IRDA is on track to achieve its investment target of RM383 billion by 2025.

He added that the total investment as of December 2020 was about RM340.4 billion, where it had almost reached the target.

Therefore, Ismail emphasised if the number of investment increases, IRDA will review the target by 2025.