COMMENT: How Singapore is setting the standard for the future of urban mobility

A new report by Automotive World explores how Singapore is positioning itself as a city of innovation, and the challenges it faces along the way. By Betti Hunter

For decades, Singapore has been a global pioneer in the urban mobility field. Although the small island republic plays host to few automotive industry players, the futuristic Lion City has been credited by experts and researchers as a leader in innovative mobility strategies, even earning the top score in Arthur D. Little’s 2018 ‘Future of Mobility’ study.

But the forward-thinking city-state faces present-day challenges. Over the past ten years, the island has experienced a population explosion. Over 5.6 million people now live in this tropical commerce hub and the space crunch is creating new obstacles in the drive towards effective mobility solutions.

With a 67km (42 miles) test bed loop, regular AV trials and an advanced legislative framework already in place, Singapore is picking up pace towards a near future of self-driving vehicles

Land is scarce in Singapore, and redeveloping road infrastructure is a costly option. Instead, private companies are working with the government to build on existing transport services and push forward the adoption of new technologies. Authorities and citizens, keen to see a drop in congestion and a move towards a more traversable city, are welcoming the changes.

The city-state is already leagues ahead in the preparation for autonomous vehicle (AV) roll-outs. With a 67km (42 miles) test bed loop, regular AV trials and an advanced legislative framework already in place, Singapore is picking up pace towards a near future of self-driving vehicles, from robo-taxis to street sweepers and commercial vehicles.

This enthusiasm for the development of real-world innovation has not escaped the attention of global manufacturers. Though Singapore is not yet a platform for industry big-hitters, automakers are keeping a close eye on the tech start-ups and university talent whose algorithms have the potential to tackle the problems posed by the rapid development and deployment of new ideas. Nissan’s Infiniti and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz have already moved in, and it will be interesting to see who comes next.

Moves to improve the city’s public transport and Mobility as a Service (MaaS) network, such as embracing bike-sharing and multi-modal public transport smart cards, have been matched by a determination to cut down private vehicle ownership. The introduction of an electronic road pricing scheme and an initiative to reduce parking lots have both had considerable success. Providing viable first and last mile alternatives to walking and cycling in unpredictable tropical weather, however, is a harder hurdle to jump.

Automakers are keeping a close eye on the tech start-ups and university talent whose algorithms have the potential to tackle the problems posed by the rapid development and deployment of new ideas

However, despite strict emissions standards and efforts to reduce air pollution, Singapore is trailing behind in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). In 2017, just 520 passenger EVs were registered on its roads. There is a desire and optimism for hybrids and full battery EVs (BEVs), but a shortfall of charging stations and minimal financial incentives have slowed progress. The ever-opinionated Elon Musk has already voiced personal concerns about the city-state’s alleged lack of support, but Dyson is more hopeful and plans to open its first Singapore-based EV factory in 2020.

Automakers, suppliers, technology companies and industry analysts are excited by the potential packed into Singapore’s 719 square kilometres. To find out more about the future of mobility in this unique, standard-setting island nation, download Automotive World‘s Special Report: The future of mobility in Singapore.

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