Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Launch of Urban Lab Exhibition on ‘Reimagining Urban Mobility with Autonomous Vehicles'

Jan 13, 2022

A very good morning to all of you. I am happy to join you for the launch of the ‘Reimagining Urban Mobility with Autonomous Vehicles’ exhibition.

Since independence, our urban planners have worked hard and planned smart so that Singapore’s potential could far exceed our small geographical size. Over the years, we have built residential towns, laid down world-class infrastructure, secured our food and water, and greened our streets. We have always looked ahead, adapted our strategies and plans to keep abreast with technological changes and new challenges, to meet the needs of Singapore and aspirations of Singaporeans.

Today’s launch marks the ninth edition of the Urban Lab exhibition series, which encapsulates our approach, to explore the possibilities posed by new technologies and how it can potentially transform and improve our way of life.

Specifically, this edition showcases autonomous vehicles, or AVs, and how it will define the future of mobility and our city.

The way we move shapes our city

Land-use planning and mobility go hand in hand. Where we site homes, workplaces, and amenities determines how goods and people move, and where and how we travel affects the layout of our city.  

Up until the late nineteenth century, walking, cycling and horse-driven transport were the main modes of travel, which limited the size and density of cities. With the invention of the automobile, people and goods started to move faster and wider. Trains enabled an even more efficient way of moving large numbers of people and volumes of goods across great distances. These technological innovations resulted in cities expanding horizontally and becoming more interconnected.

Our pioneer urban planners learnt from cities around the world and envisioned how Singapore could build an accessible and efficient transport system. In 1971, they drew up far-sighted plans for a rail and road network in the first Concept Plan.  

Fifty years later, we have an extensive rail network of six MRT lines spanning the entire island, and a dense network of roads and footpaths that connect where people live, work and play. As we review our Long-Term Plan this year and consider where we will be 50 years from today, it is timely to think about the future of mobility in our city and how technologies, like AVs, will shape our journey forward.

Advent of AVs and its impact on future Singapore

While AV technology is still nascent, like many other countries, we have started thinking hard about the possibilities it presents.

Our AV journey started in 2014, when the Ministry of Transport (MOT) set up the Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore, also known as CARTS. With members from the public and private sectors, as well as in academia, CARTS contributed significantly to developing our vision for AV-enabled mobility.

As you walk around this exhibition space, you will see many of the trials piloting AV-enabled mobility that are being conducted around the island. In some areas, Singapore is pioneering the advancements. In 2016, we saw the world’s first public trial of a “robo-taxi” service launched by nuTonomy, now known as Motional, in the One-North business district.

These trials give us a glimpse of what an AV-enabled future could look like.

First, we can travel more efficiently. On-demand AV shuttles could act as first-and-last mile transportation, connecting commuters to public transport nodes. This would complement our existing public transport system to provide a seamless journey.

Next, AVs can help us travel more safely. AVs, with their array of sensors, could navigate more precisely, adjust to current traffic conditions, and move in a consistent manner. This could reduce accidents arising from human error and make our roads safer.

AVs can also improve other aspects of our way of life. For example, door-to-door deliveries. The Infocomm Media Development Authority has partnered fellow agencies and industry stakeholders to trial Autonomous Mobile Robots as “couriers” to conduct deliveries at Punggol. Such contactless deliveries will grow in prominence as we move towards an endemic COVID-19 future. The trial concludes in February this year, and its findings could be key to redefining door-to-door deliveries.

In addition, AVs opens up more opportunities, in changing how we plan our urban and road infrastructure. With the precision of AV-enabled mobility, we may be able to reduce land dedicated to roads and share more of our streets with other users like cyclists and pedestrians.  

While AV technology is promising, it is still early days. We will study the technology carefully, conduct trials to ensure the safety and readiness of AV mobility, and plan ahead to build a future city where AVs enhance our quality of life.

Working on our future together

AVs are just one of the technologies that could transform the future of mobility. We are also keeping a close watch on other emerging trends, such as telecommuting, shared transport, micro-mobility solutions and Mobility-as-a-Service. We are studying how these developments can complement our existing transport network to ensure that travel in Singapore is safe, convenient, and fast.  

Future of Mobility is one key aspect in our Long-Term Plan Review (LTPR). Closely related to this, we are also looking at the Future of Living, Work and the Environment, where we examine trends like telecommuting and climate change. These themes complement and inform each other, exemplifying how we continue to innovate to maximise our land, and develop future-ready towns that are safe, connected and resilient.

At this juncture, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the many Singaporeans who have participated in URA’s various LTPR engagements. I’m glad to share that thus far, about 6,800 respondents have provided their views and ideas through the various polls, workshops and focus group discussions.  

I would like to invite you to join our next event, a webinar on the future of mobility, that will take place tomorrow. This will be closely relevant to the innovations exhibited here. Your input, both as professionals with diverse expertise and as Singaporeans, will add to the invaluable conversations we are having about our future city.

Looking ahead, we are moving towards the next phase of the engagement, where we converge on the long-term strategies and considerations that will shape our plans. URA will be organising dialogues for this, and a public exhibition to sum up the findings from our engagements and present our plans for future Singapore. This will take place later in the middle of the year, so do keep a look out for details that will be released soon on the physical and virtual exhibits.


On this note, I hope that you will find this exhibition insightful, and that it inspires you to think about the future possibilities with urban mobility in Singapore. Thank you.