Every time I do a post on self-driving vehicles, someone chimes it “it will not happen for decades” if ever.

My timeline, for the US, remains 2022-2024 and I may very well be not optimistic enough.

One 100% guaranteed measure of “driverless” that no one can possibly dispute is the answer to the question “Does the vehicle have a steering wheel?”

The time horizon in Singapore is not decades away, but 2019.

Singapore Driverless Vehicle

Please consider Why Singapore Will Get Self-Driving Cars First.

Honest-to-goodness self-driving cars are becoming a reality, and not just in the United States. This week, Delphi Automotive announced that it will launch a fleet of six automated taxis in Singapore next year.

At first, the cars will only travel on designated routes in one district, and a driver will be present to step in if problems arise. But by 2019, the company plans to eliminate drivers as well as steering wheels and pedals, and envisions a fleet of 50 taxis that users can hail via an app and travel in beyond the original area. The first taxis will be Audis, while the expanded group will consist of electric cars.

Singapore makes a particularly good testing ground for automated vehicles. Its manageable size (it’s about three-and-a-half Districts of Columbia), flat terrain, warm weather, and well-kept roads provide about as simple of an urban landscape as one could ask for. And its government is supportive of such technology, having formed an Autonomous Vehicle Initiative to oversee research in 2014. This week, the city-state even launched a Center of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous Vehicles, in partnership with a Singaporean university.

Only around 15 percent of Singapore residents own a car, in large part owing to the high taxes and pricey fees that make car ownership in the city-state wildly expensive. The population thus needs—and is clamoring for—more effective and inexpensive public transportation options. A jaunt in a self-driving taxi is projected to cost about a third of a regular cab ride.

Eventually the taxis will be shuttling people around, and with any luck they’ll be doing it both safely and for a low price. Perhaps they’ll also help with the Singaporean phenomenon of the seeming complete disappearance of taxis when it rains—an almost daily occurrence in the tropical clime.

What About?

  • Kids playing in the street?
  • Traffic cones?
  • Bicycles?
  • Dogs, cats, and other animals?
  • Blowing beach balls?
  • Drunken 80-year old men on roller skates?
  • Insurance
  • All the other ridiculous reasons this cannot ever work?

Quite obviously, every one of those things will  cease to matter, by 2019, not three decades from now.

The naysayers are certain to bring up snow, sleet, and sunspots. But anyone with an ounce of sense understands that automation can handle adverse conditions better than humans.

In the US, trucks will be first, because that is where the biggest savings will come.

City traffic of Singapore is far more demanding than interstate trucking because of children playing in the streets and random occurrences of things like drunken 80-year old men on roller skates.

History suggests the naysayers will continue to ignore the facts that robots will not get drunk, fall asleep at the wheel, enter an exit ramp, or do any of the other things that stupid humans do, like get angry and purposely ram other vehicles.

History also suggests the naysayers will invent still more creative reasons why driverless vehicles cannot possibly work.

I can hardly wait for the next set reasons as to why what is obviously going to work, cannot possibly ever work.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock