I once wrote how the future of driverless cars won’t be one in every home, but one replacing taxis and other car services. Imagine a future where these cars are optimally located around every corner; enough units to match demand, and easily deployable where mismatches occur.
Singapore is the first to take a step into that future in 2015, when they will pilot driverless cars on the road in one of its busiest neighborhoods.
Driverless taxis make a lot of sense for this densely packed city-state. Singapore has long discouraged its citizens to buy cars. A Toyota Corolla that costs $23 thousand in the US, for example, would cost a stunning $136 thousand in Singapore (source). Even then, cars are only allowed to be on the road for 10 years, after which they are scrapped unless you pay another exorbitant tax.
Singapore wants its citizens to use public transport as much as possible and keep congestion out of roads. This is a city-state where a mobile app used to easily hail taxis existed long before Uber became popular.
So driverless taxis make a lot of sense for Singapore, and the Singapore government is already testing it. According to the Technology Review:
The city-state will open one of its neighborhoods to driverless cars in 2015, with the idea that such vehicles could operate as a kind of jitney service, picking up passengers and taking them to trains or other modes of public transportation. The vehicles might be like golf carts, taking people short distances at low speeds, similar to the driverless vehicles demonstrated this year by Google.
Through the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the city has had pilot tests of driverless cars for several years, starting with two driverless golf carts on the campus of the National University of Singapore. This year it added a Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car, retrofitted to be autonomous. A driverless bus called the Navia is used as a shuttle at Singapore’s Cleantech eco-industrial park and on campus at Nanyang Technology University.