Singapore is going to use driverless minibuses to passenger commuters from MRT stations to their homes, Singapore Smart Nation Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has said.
“What we’re really looking at is autonomous minibuses, autonomous vehicles that close that final gap, which will be available on demand, and it will literally bring you to the doorstep of your house or from the doorstep of your house to the train station or bus interchange,” he told the IOT Asia Show.
“People hear about Google cars and the rest of it. Actually from our perspective, the real killer app for autonomous vehicles is not the driverless car – as interesting as that may be – but really to solve the challenge of the last 500 meters, meaning from the MRT station to your doorstep”.
The Minister announced that ”we’re looking at this starting off in One-North, and we hope to see some autonomous vehicles in the shape of buses and minibuses plying those routes to close that last 500 meters.”
Minister Balakrishnan said that trials could start “in the next one to two years”. He has previously suggested that driverless vehicles could be coupled with the Beeline app, which reserves buses on demand for Singaporean commuters.
Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Singapore’s Foreign Minister, said that the Land Transport Authority has “installed sensors in every bus and every taxi in Singapore. Which means that LTA actually knows in real time the location of every bus and taxi.”
This use of data has seen a 92% reduction in the number of bus services with crowding issues, he added, despite a year on year increase in ridership.
More broadly, Minister Balakrishnan said that this showed why governments should use data science, not political opinion, to shape their policies. “It’s an example of just trying to improve people’s daily lives using data science, using data rather than opinion or political polling,” he said.
Singapore’s Minister in Charge of Smart Nation went on to say that “politicians – and that includes me – have generally got it all wrong.” Technology will guide the future of a country, he said, not politics.
“It is the advancements of technology which lead in turn to economic development, and then the way that the economy unfolds affects political outcomes in countries.”
He added that “if you get it wrong, and you put the cart before the horse, you get a very confused world that is unable to solve the existential challenges, and more importantly unable to capitalise on opportunities that these technological advancements provide.”
The Minister said that having a culture of “openness, cooperativeness, innovation, ability to defer gratification, ability to invest, and then the ability to execute and to execute well… will make all the difference between success or being left behind.”
That is how Singapore looks at the use of technology in government, he added. “Let’s take an honest, brutally frank view of where Singapore stands. We think we’re in the game – We’re not leaders but we’re in – hopefully – the leading pack.”