Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Look mum, no hands? Singapore looks into driverless vehicles

Aug 27, 2014

By Lee Jian Xuan

SINGAPORE - Imagine a Singapore where cars and buses zip on the roads without drivers. Commuters can hop from one town to the next on board shared vehicles steered by autopilot. This was the bold vision outlined by a new government committee set up to oversee research into driverless technology.

"(This) technology has the potential to transform our lives... For example, instead of driving to work in the morning and being stuck in peak hour traffic, you could get a head-start on your emails," said Senior Minister of State for Transport and Finance Josephine Teo, speaking at the committee's launch on Wednesday.

To do this, the committee has roped in international experts, academics, industry members and government agencies such as the Land Transport Authority and Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Some areas that they are looking at include driverless buses to operate on fixed routes and timings and deploying shared vehicles for intra-town travel to reduce dependence on cars. Trials on driverless vehicles, which are already ongoing in local universities, will also start on public roads in the one-North area next January.

[Technology works with Socio-cultural values, vision, memes, lifestyle. 

Take the MP3 player. Until the Apple iPod came along, the MP3 player was just a technical marvel. Then Apple made the iPod a cultural (well, techno-cultural if you want a flashy hyphenate) icon, a must-have, a lifestyle, a badge of cool.

So, LTA, ASTAR, experts and academics will try to figure out how to fit driverless cars into our lives?

I'll just laugh quietly in the corner so as not to demoralise them.

We need a visionary to sell this. Not techno-geeks and civil servants. We need a Steve Jobs, and we are getting a Bill Gates. Or a whole lot of little Bill Gates wannabes.

Colour me unimpressed.

Oh I don't doubt that they will be successful partly - Driverless buses? No problem. Driverless Taxis? Highly probable.

Mr Tan trading in his BMW 7-series for a supersized iRobot so he can catch up on his email on the daily commute? You have to understand the BMW is more than a car. It is a status symbol. Otherwise, he could have taken a cab for the same effect.

Of course there are more than one way to skin a cat. Introduce a new COE category for driverless cars, increase the quota for it while decreasing the quota for the other categories and viola! driverless cars.

But that is NOT solving the problem of cars on the road, congestion on the road, and inefficient use of resources (one car, one passenger/ex-driver)

What drives us?

Culture, not technology alone.]


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