Not many of you may know this, but Singapore has been testing driverless vehicles in NUS and at the Chinese and Japanese Gardens since the start of the year. So here’s a reminder.
The Singapore National Research Foundation has been funding research on driverless technology, being done by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Singapore as a partnership called the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART).
Through the development of driverless technology, Singapore hopes to combat the “first- and last-mile problem” which is defined as the difficulty in travelling between a starting location and transport hub (bus stop, interchange, or MRT station), and the transport hub and the final location. This technology will be used only for short distances in the experimental stage, thus alleviating the problem.
Wow I have heard about this before, but so what?
How many people do you know have cars simply because “it’s more convenient”, despite the added costs? Driverless vehicles can help persuade commuters to look at public transport as a more viable option of getting around, by solving the first- and last-mile problem.
The elderly have more difficulty commuting to transport hubs, an issue that the government is very concerned about.
Another concern is the ever-growing number of cars on the road despite COE and ERP prices being higher than ever. Maybe one day, the government will realise that the only way to truly solve traffic jams will be to ban cars on the road, but that will never happen. Driverless cars are poised to reduce the amount of cars by a significant amount.
That’s pretty cool, but entrusting my life to a computer on the road sounds dangerous!
The positives of driverless cars are wondrous – getting to say “look, Mum, no hands!” definitely ranks as one of them.
However, there’s always the inherent risk of leaving your life in the figurative hands of a computer, although driverless transport already runs in our MRT system – I still haven’t met anyone who refuses to ride on the Circle Line or North-East Line because there’s no driver. Apart from the seemingly never-ending breakdowns, driverless trains have proven to be safe.
Funny how we humans can be more trusting of other humans than technology despite the fact that neither are always able to be fully understood.
But then, train tracks are far less volatile than roads and also not dependent on traffic conditions, which may vary wildly when on the road.
Deploying driverless cars may have proven successful in places with light traffic – such as the Chinese and Japanese gardens in the Jurong Lake District. Now, in conditions far denser, will the technology hold up? That’s what SMART wants to find out.
Technology is seen as both a bane and boon in the 21st century, but when used for the right reasons, one cannot deny the potential efficiency of driverless cars – the disabled, elderly and youth will see the most benefit. And of course, the lazy ones out there who have an allergy to walking will rejoice at this development.
Road rage will also be eliminated – unless the cars become sentient and decide that they will become the new overlords of Singapore.
But honestly, we can’t wait for the next new riderless transport – our money is on motorcycles.