With an aim and goal to help Singapore develop innovative transport solutions, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART 1998) launched Singapore’s very first and perhaps world’s first locally-developed driverless car that is designed for operations on public roads. It is a development that has the collaboration and partnership of government, two universities and the private sector mainly the National Research Foundation with the aim of identify and carrying out research on critical problems of societal significance and develop innovative solutions. Through its ‘revolving approach’ , interdisciplinary research groups and also helping instill a culture of transnational research, entrepreneurship and technology transfer through the SMART Innovation Center that can help other developing and growing urban cities transform or revamp their current or future transportation systems or networks through technology and in a sustainable way. According to A.D.Basiango, and in regards to i.e. transportation, “Agenda 21 proposes that cities “adopt technology based transportation reforms such as SMART where cities are encouraged to adopt new transportation systems, foot transportation, bike riding or public transportation over automobiles”. (5)
According to the government of Singapore, driverless car research and development aims to resolve the “first- and last-mile problem”, which is especially pertinent in view of Singapore’s ageing society. It also aims to help promote car-sharing as the driverless car is able to resolve the ‘re balancing’ issue (i.e. getting the car to the next car-sharing customer once the previous customer drops off the car) when cars are shared. It is a project also funded by Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) where they hope to be able to deploy a mobility-on-demand system in controlled areas such as central business districts, newly developed neighborhoods with modern urban systems of planning and also destinations like airports, hotels /resorts and transit stations where driverless cars can pick and drop people.
Adopting the SMART approach is important because it combines all principles of sustainability (environment, economics ,social equity, energy and health) and for a small (one and only world`s island city state) country, Singapore`s government recognizes that a single challenge like transportation can also be an opportunity to be used to tackle other related challenges that transportation causes. The government also recognizes current urban density and future population growth and its aim is to predict and help control current and future transportation congestion brought by the use of automobiles. Traffic congestion not only wastes energy but it also decreases productivity in an area due to time wasted in traffic. Smart and clean driverless ‘cars on demand’ will also help in decreasing CO2 levels in the city thus cleaning the air and therefore improving the quality of life in Singapore. If the research and development succeeds, it will not only help improve the current transport systems in Singapore, but will also provide visible platforms that can be utilized and analyzed for better transport solutions for growing urban cities around the world.
-Economic, social, and environmental sustainability in development theory and urban planning practices; – A.D.Basiago.