Driverless cars may be reality within 10 years: Singapore's Khaw

BILBAO, Spain - Driverless cars will soon become the reality in cities, and possibly as soon as in the next 10 years, and this will dramatically transform the landscape of urban planning, said Singapore National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

"In time to come, there will be driverless electric cars, in which by then private transport will become less important and therefore, less reliant on road service and land to be set aside for roads and carparks," said Mr Khaw, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum in Bilbao, Spain, on Friday.

"These are [among] the technological changes and ideas which the mayors discussed with great excitement and expectations. It won't happen next year, it may happen in 10 years' time, it will most certainly happen within 15 to 20 years," he added.

Electric cars, which Mr Khaw says mayors at the summit hope to see more of, is just one example of the technology that can be harnessed to address the challenges of urban planning. In his television interview with both MediaCorp News and TVE Spain, given late on Friday, Mr Khaw also touched on water recycling and energy conservation as examples in which Singapore uses technology to address urban challenges.

Greater collaboration is also needed between the government and the private sector in solving tomorrow's urban planning challenges, said Mr Khaw, who revealed that there were plans to potentially add a business element to the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum.

"Part of the discussions with Bilbao City was to suggest a business segment to the Forum, to bring in private companies because they are the ones who create wealth, who can translate ideas into specific projects, get it implemented and scaled up for implementation," he said

This is particularly as there is great demand within Asia for innovative urban solutions.

"I interacted with some of the companies from the Basque Country from the last couple of days. I learnt that they have strong capabilities in infrastructure, engineering, and building of roads and bridges. If you look at Asia, the need for massive investment in infrastructure is huge. China, India, Southeast Asia and I see possibilities in companies exploring in that kind of opportunity," said Mr Khaw.

There are opportunities for Singapore in the global drive for better urban planning, he said.

"Many of them [the mayors at the summit] have heard about the Singapore story, the transformation that took place in the last 50 years. They wanted to see the secrets that they can apply to their own cities. Along the way, this opens up business opportunities for Singapore companies," Mr Khaw said, adding that a mayor from Rwanda was so impressed with the Singapore model of public housing that he appointed a consultant who "happened to be one that was involved in Singapore's public housing".

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