What will the city of the future look like? According to researchers at MIT’s SENSEable City Lab, chances are good it will look a lot like Singapore, which may be less than a year away from unveiling a fleet of driverless taxis.
Emilio Frazzoli PhD ’01 is the lead investigator of the urban mobility research group at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), which has applied to run the taxi pilot. Last fall, the team ran a test of smaller autonomous vehicles—basically, driverless golf carts—that transported visitors around Singapore’s Japanese and Chinese gardens.
The taxi pilot, which Frazzoli hopes to begin within six months, will employ electric cars and take place in the business park district of Singapore known as “one-north.”
“At the moment, few countries are taking the bold step to consider self-driving vehicles into its ecosystem,” noted Frazzoli in a press release. What makes Singapore different? The small city-state’s government has already shown a commitment to sustainability, implementing innovative methods to reduce road congestion. Use of Singapore’s world-class public transit system is encouraged, in part by making it extremely expensive for citizens to maintain their own vehicles: Singaporeans must pay $60,000 for a 10-year car-owner’s permit.
Driverless cars aren’t the only project MIT is undertaking in Singapore. SENSEable City director Carlos Ratti is using big data to improve urban life through LIVE Singapore!. Ultimately, Ratti hopes to expand the project to other cities, providing a toolbox developers can use to build applications tailored to a city’s specific needs.