Singapore, smart city of the future
Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative was first unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in November 2014. It aims to make Singapore a 21st-century nation of smart technology and innovation. It will achieve this through leveraging technology, innovation and talent to elevate the quality of its residents’ everyday lives.

The building blocks are already present. Significant investments in the digital infrastructure, including fiber broadband connections in every home and business, have resulted in Singapore achieving the world’s highest mobile penetration rate and the fastest peak Internet speeds for mobile broadband. It’s what the nation calls its E3A environment: “Everyone connected to Everything, Everywhere, All the time.” It’s supported by a population that is well educated, particularly in science, math, technology and engineering, with high levels of computer fluency.

Throw in a solid dose of commercial acumen, a thriving start-up scene, a sizeable venture capital pool, globally leading universities, and a strong R&D culture, and it’s no surprise to find that the country has become a magnet for innovators, entrepreneurs, and corporate headquarters.


Tackling tomorrow’s big challenges today

Through its Smart Nation initiative, Singapore intends to be forward-looking and anticipate the megatrends that will impact not only Singapore itself but the whole world. These megatrends are:

  • Urban density: Two-thirds of the world will live in cities by 2050. Singapore is the world’s third most densely populated nation, with nearly 8,000 people per square kilometer
  • Ageing population: By 2050, more than 2 billion people will be over 60. In Singapore, by 2030, 1 in 5 people will be 65 years or older
  • Healthcare: By 2025, there will be 8 billion people in the world, 800 million of whom are expected to have high healthcare needs
  • Mobility: Increasing urban travel and congestion could bring cities to a standstill. Singapore’s roads take up 12% of land space, and its population drives approximately 1 million cars
  • Energy sustainability: Global demand for energy will rise by 37% by 2035. In Singapore, power consumption increased by one third over the past decade and is expected to grow by a further 30% by 2050

By addressing all these issues with an ambitious and whole-of-nation vision, Singapore aims to make its nation an attractive and healthy place to live and work in.


A closer look at mobility

A key element of the Smart Nation initiative is to optimize Singapore’s limited space for more efficient, safe, reliable, and enhanced transportation. One of the ways that Singapore is facing up to this challenge is through the implementation of self-driving technology.

Trials are already underway for autonomous mobility-on-demand services. The vision – considered perfectly feasible both technically and economically – is that commuters will be able to use their smartphones to book a shared, self-driving shuttle to take them from A to B in the city. It promises to be particularly beneficial for the elderly or commuters who have difficulty taking public transport.

At the same time, self-driving buses are being trialed. These will operate on fixed routes and scheduled timings during peak hours, with the flexibility to be deployed during off-peak hours based on commuter demand.

The trials involve two 12-metre electric hybrid buses. The buses are installed with a suite of intelligent sensors enabling them to effectively navigate Singapore’s local road traffic. The driverless buses will also feature charging technology, allowing them to be automatically charged when they stop at a bus depot or even a bus stop. During the trials, the two buses will travel the route between Nanyang Technological University and CleanTech Park.

Great potential also lies in the sector of freight transportation and utility services sectors. Yet another trial concerns self-driving road sweeping and waste collection trucks, while truck platooning technology is being looked at to improve the efficiency of the logistics industry.

And don’t forget driverless taxis! These follow optimal paths for picking up and dropping off passengers to reduce traffic congestion. Without the need to pay drivers, they promise to be cheaper than Uber and conventional taxis. What’s more, they are electric cars, which produce lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than conventional vehicles do.

The first road test of driverless taxis was recently held in Singapore. The vehicles successfully navigated a custom obstacle course without incident. The next stage involves getting approval for on-road testing in the One North business district. The aim is to deploy thousands of driverless taxis in Singapore within the next few years.


An integrated vision for mobility

In the face of growing vehicle population and limited land for road expansion, Intelligent Transport

Systems such as these described above will play an important role to improve mobility within Singapore and enhance commuters’ travel experience. All these innovative systems are integrated into an ITS strategic plan for Singapore called Smart Mobility 2030. It seeks to provide the strategic leadership, guidance and support for ITS initiatives and programs to achieve a more connected and interactive transport community, within the umbrella framework of Smart Nation.


Written by Denzil Walton

Denzil Walton is a technical copywriter, editor and conference reporter. He has over 30 years’ experience writing on a variety of industrial and high-tech topics.


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