Today Singapore announced plans for new research partnerships between local universities and the Land Transport Authority.

These three research centres (at National University of Singapore; Nanyang Technological University; and Singapore Institute of Technology) will look to bring about radical changes to the country’s public transport system.

Here are three key schemes:

1. Shared driverless pods

Much of the focus on driverless vehicles focuses on cars. But Singapore is looking to reduce the number of cars on the road. Instead, it wants to create “self-driving buses or pods” that make trips on demand.

“We should be able to go to the car pool, grab different ride options, and even hop onto a self-driving pod for the first and last mile,” said Senior Minister of Transport Ng Chee Meng today.

He added: “We should not find ourselves caught in queues, breakdowns or jams, because the system will automatically, proactively and dynamically route us”.

Ride-sharing of autonomous vehicles is likely, he indicated, suggesting that they would follow variable routes that take people straight from home to their place of work.

2. Robotic train upgrades

Robot in car manufacturing factory

“Whatever our vision, to get there or even just sustain the current transportation systems,” the Minister said, “we will need to overcome one critical constraint – skilled manpower”.

The government is funding the training of specialist engineers, but the research projects show that other help is at hand.

LTA’s Chief Executive said that “we will explore how we can make use of automation and robotics to enhance LTA’s productivity in the area of construction, operation and maintenance.”

Transport research centres at NTU and SIT will both be working on these schemes.

Hong Kong already has an artificial intelligence system that schedules engineering work.

3. Fewer roads, more paths

cyclinginsingapore

Too many people in Singapore drive, the government believes. With 12% of the island already dedicated to roads, the city cannot afford to have more drivers on the road. And a car addiction is unhealthy – cities across the world are trying to promote healthier lifestyles and the benefits of more exercise.

Singapore Government is doing the same, and researchers will look at how to ‘nudge’ citizens to take up different forms of transport. Equally, the LTA wants to improve infrastructure for cycling and walking.

The plan is to create “inclusive streets” that allow multiple forms of transport to exist side by side. Tree canopies will be grown to shelter cyclists from the heat, and URA will take advantage of existing shaded infrastructure such as elevated railway bridges or covered walkways.

A team at the National University of Singapore will head up this area of research.