AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES CAN DRIVE THE FUTURE OF MOBILITY

4 April, 2019

Hong Kong and Singapore, like many cities across the world, are grappling with growing congestion, overcrowded transport and roadside pollution. Add into the mix limited land supply, and it’s clear that the prioritization of electric vehicles and connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) are just what these two cities need.

Technology is changing the way we move from A to B – the most advanced CAVs can communicate with each other and the surrounding environment without the need for a human driver. The potential for such technology has been recognized by cities around the world, and each has their own visions for implementation. In Hong Kong, the government has ambitiously targeted 30% CAV adoption by 2020 – in a city where 70% of cars on the road are privately owned. Singapore is leading the way by putting CAV at the heart of the future of mass transit in its Smart Nation vision, bypassing tech-savvy capitals like New York, San Francisco and Paris.

Regulatory and Government Influence
Since 2016, Singapore has been developing CAV technology and carrying out tests to ensure safety and feasibility on public roads. This year, it will launch its first self-driving shuttle bus that will operate alongside regular buses, cars and motorcycles. Hong Kong has also started to venture into the autonomous vehicle market, albeit with only emergent ambitions due to a more complex governance climate. Essential to the success of CAV is the flexibility and willingness of the government to evolve current regulatory framework to push its development forward.

Mobility as a Service – a revolution that can accelerate adoption
Hong Kong has a world-class Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system, and although private car ownership rates are low compared to other developed cities, the rise in the number of private cars is an issue the government is trying to address. Hong Kong has allowed uncontrolled private car growth, leading to a 35% increase over the past decade with 613,065 private cars registered at the end of 2018. Hong Kong would benefit from a revolution in mobility, known as Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which shifts away from private transportation towards mobility solutions that are consumed as a service.

CAV adoption in Hong Kong is a viable way of supporting a city lacking land. By developing CAV routes that complement the MTR system and focusing on ‘first and last mile’ connections around stations, people can get to their homes and places of work with ease by simply ordering a CAV with their smartphones. This has the potential to reduce the need for street parking and garages, thus freeing up land. Ultimately, with affordable and convenient transportation options widely available, people can spread out further, decreasing pressure on congested areas.

Singapore has a similarly excellent Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system, but the government’s attitude toward private cars is much more progressive. In February 2018, the growth cap for all cars and motorcycles was cut from 0.25% a year to zero. Singapore is also ahead of Hong Kong in its attitude toward MaaS with the world’s first operator, MaaS Global from Finland, starting operations in Singapore and will integrate various forms of transport services into a single mobility application.

Undoubtedly, there will be challenges shifting away from traditional modes of transit, but governments in Asia should be encouraged to bypass uncertainties and form regulatory policies that proactively shape the CAV landscape to meet the needs of their populations. For a city to fully embrace the benefits of CAV, there are four main steps that encourage a logical progression towards CAV readiness. Cities like Hong Kong and Singapore can better prepare themselves for the future of mass transit by adopting ride-hailing services, car sharing and MaaS, and create autonomous infrastructure that will allow for safe CAV implementation.

1. Ride-hailing – the adoption of app-based ride-hailing services enables the collection of data and provides comfortable door-to-door transport for citizens. In Hong Kong, these services face opposition from the taxi industry which has traditionally been very strong, while Singapore has been much more progressive in its acceptance of these schemes

2. Car sharing – car sharing is designed for local users to support community transit needs while meeting environmental objectives by decreasing private car ownership. While Hong Kong has yet to adopt car sharing, Blue SG was launched in Singapore in 2017, providing 80 all-electric cars for public use on a paid subscription basis.

3. MaaS – Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the integration of a variety of different transport modes into a single data platform with a standardized payment and ticketing system. MaaS Global has begun operations in Singapore, partnering with major car rental companies, car sharing, bike sharing and scooter sharing operators as well as public transport to provide a seamless digital offering. While Hong Kong has been slow to embrace some necessary elements for MaaS like car sharing, it can still work to integrate existing initiatives to create this offering.

4. Autonomous infrastructure – a connected city can be achieved through the development of a smart city and supporting infrastructure that includes data-collection mechanisms to anticipate traffic conditions and machine readable signs, among other innovations. In Hong Kong, significant investments have been made in upgrading infrastructure, and an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) Pilot Scheme will be implemented in the near future. Singapore is also ahead of the curve, with an extremely high-quality road and communications network, and open-data based analytics that helps reduce overcrowding on public transport.

Cities around the world must continue to innovate and bring solutions that not only address citizens’ mobility needs, but also environmental and social stressors around transportation. Every city should be investing in new mobility solutions that will improve the quality of life in urban areas.



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