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Self-Driving Cars Set To Change Our Lives

3 min read
Imagine life without car parks near your home in the not-too-distant future, where an AI-driven car will drop you off at home or the office and proceed to park itself in an out-of-the-way facility. That could well be the reality here if the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s plan for how we live and work comes to fruition.

‘Autonomy’ is the trending word these days, and it seems to be an important component of Singapore’s intention for a more efficient mobility network in the near future. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has a vision to introduce autonomous vehicles (AVs) into the way we live, work, play and travel. The emergence of AVs presents a multitude of possibilities that the URA is hoping to leverage.

AVs have enhanced sensors that can detect their environment without the need for any human intervention. Their ability to navigate routes more precisely and optimally offers many possible benefits. Space that was once allocated for roads and car-related infrastructure can now be used to facilitate the movement of essential services — such as logistics and emergency vehicles — instead. The freed-up space can also be used for people’s leisure needs and activities that enhance the quality of life.

The car park is such a staple of office buildings and housing estates here that it’s hard to imagine a future without them. The commuter of the future, however, would be able to alight at his or her destination without the need to search for a parking spot. The driverless car would then automatically depart for an out-of-the-way facility designed for the efficient storage of AVs where the cars are parked in inch-perfect fashion. With good urban planning, these AV storage hubs can be located away from busy and prime districts. This could free up a potential massive amount of space in office and residential buildings that can be put to better use. So instead of constructing more buildings for commercial and residential use, existing ones can re-purpose their parking spaces to meet different needs and demands.

Commuters of the future will no longer be concerned with the availability and proximity of car parks to pick-up and drop-off (PUDO) locations. They will instead place greater importance on the convenience of their origin and destination points. The PUDOs of the future will not just be for the purpose of boarding or alighting anymore; they can be transformed into lively community destinations with fully integrated public transport services and amenities to complement the AVs.

Already, more than 40 driverless vehicles — from taxis and shuttles to buses and street sweepers — have been approved to ply our roads. These will be followed by another 10 more AVs that will ply public paths, providing last-mile needs, such as home delivery of meals and goods. And plans are being made to integrate AVs in the housing estates of Punggol and Tengah, as well as the Jurong Innovation District. URA’s vision is no doubt ambitious but if all goes well, Singapore can expect a truly life-changing future that will be the envy of urban centres.