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Connected and autonomous vehicles will have a disruptive influence on the mobility solutions within our cities. They will most likely be electric vehicles, and this itself poses a challenge around establishing the most appropriate charging infrastructure. Article contributed by Arcadis.


THE proliferation of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) is inevitable. However, exactly what form this disruption will take in our cities, from business and service models to the vehicle itself, is yet to be fully defined. All cities share common fundamental attributes, but are ultimately different, with their own histories, cultures, topographies, infrastructures and aspirations. Because of this, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to CAV is unlikely to deliver the full extent of the opportunity available and will not ensure that the special character of a city is protected.

Cities around the world have different visions for CAV. Cities like Singapore and San Francisco put CAV at the heart of the future of mass transit. In contrast, others such as Paris and Hong Kong have more emergent ambitions to develop CAV as an enhanced personal transport solution.

The arrival of CAV will have a disruptive influence on urban mobility, and in this article we outline how CAVs present a huge opportunity to radically transform how we live. A recent report by Design & Consultancy ‘Citizens in Motion’ looks at global cities, such as Singapore and Hong Kong and offers a snapshot of activity across three key elements: citizen connection, governance platforms and enabling infrastructure. Each city has the opportunity to incorporate CAV as part of their mobility mix, giving them the potential to become more competitive and sustainable.

Singapore: One Of The World’s Most Active CAV Testing Environments

In Singapore, the government’s Smart Nation blueprint stresses alternative modes of mobility, and it is one of the world’s most active CAV testing environments. Given Singapore’s tight land and manpower limitations that currently constrain the city-state’s transport system, CAV is broadly accepted by both citizens, who already widely use car sharing schemes. Citizens spend almost 90 minutes every day on public transport, with more than eight million passenger trips a day.

The focus on CAV is for ‘first and last mile connection’ across regional transit systems. There is already enabling infrastructure including high quality communications and road networks. The Committee on Autonomous Road Transport for Singapore (CARTS) coordinates all CAV initiatives and plans to have self-driving buses and shuttles on public roads by 2022. They are also targeting a 10-fold increase in electric vehicles for car sharing and taxis by 2017-2020.

The report highlights how Singapore can accelerate and leverage sustainable, cost-effective technologies to provide safe and reliable green transportation to achieve its desired goal of a ‘car-lite’ Singapore. Currently 12 percent of land is given over to roads and parking; this land could be ultimately repurposed to help with Singapore’s land issues.

“In Singapore we are moving toward a future where the general public has an increasing acceptance of CAVs. While there are some concerns over safety and how to enable integration with other modes of transport, it’s clear that the government has a very well-thought out plan on how to make CAV work for Singapore,” said Tim Risbridger, Arcadis Country Head, Singapore.

Hong Kong: Cautious Approach Presents Challenges To CAV Acceptance

Given that the land-scarce city is grappling with chronic congestion, overcrowded transport and poor air quality plus a lack of suitable housing for many of its citizens, the digital disruption caused by CAV could be a solution.

In Hong Kong over 12.6 million passenger trips are taken on its public transportation system daily. By developing CAV routes that complement the current metro system, with a focus on ‘first and last mile’ connection around stations, residents can get to their homes and places of work more quickly and efficiently. As CAV requires less roadway and parking space, if its vision is realised, land can then be repurposed for residential, commercial or mixed-use projects.

In Hong Kong, the increase in the number of private vehicles in recent years remains one of the major contributors to the city’s traffic congestion problem. Between 2013 to 2017, the city saw an increase of about 29 percent of private cars (at 552,710), making up for 90 percent of the increase in the total number of licensed cars of the same period.  With population expected to reach a peak of 8.22 million in 2043, the city’s congestion will only worsen if no action is taken soon.  Other consequences of traffic congestion include road side pollution, increase in travel time and cost – elements that shape and define Hong Kong’s liveability.

At the moment Hong Kong is taking an extremely cautious approach to CAV and lacks specific policies. The government’s Smart City blueprint mentions CAVs, but there is no legal framework in place yet with data and smart traffic management systems prioritized over CAV.

“To maximise the opportunities offered by CAV, cities must prepare now. CAV has the potential to address some of Hong Kong’s urban challenges and improve the city’s livability.  What we do need is a framework that strives to strike a balance between the interest of transport operators, passengers and technology, while meeting Hong Kong’s unique needs and ambitions,” said Francis Au, Arcadis, Head of Hong Kong & Macau.

It is clear the emerging CAV revolution provides a new frontier of disruption in city mobility. The power of big-tech players means that the march of CAV is an inevitability. However, cities do not have to be supplicants and can proactively respond to CAV disruption in a way that works best for them and their citizens.

For cities that proactively shape CAV to meet their needs and ambitions, it offers a colossal opportunity to improve mobility outcomes. For those that do not, it threatens to disrupt the status quo and could damage a city’s ability to compete if not harnessed in the right way.

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