Singapore the globe’s second-most ready country for self-driving cars

18 June 2018 5 min. read

Singapore has been ranked in a global KPMG study as the second-most prepared nation for the adoption of autonomous vehicles, boosted by top placings for policy and legislation and public acceptance.

“It will affect us all. It will not only change the way we travel, but the way we live. It will change the way we spend our time at leisure, and at work,” Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s International’s Global Head of Infrastructure says in the foreword to the firm’s ‘Autonomous Change Readiness Index’ report, stating as simply as possible the basic fact; like it or lump it, the world of self-driving cars is just around the corner and will impact almost every facet of life as we know it.

A previous report from Strategy&, based on a survey of automotive manufacturers and suppliers, academics, and analysts, projected autonomous vehicle (AV) penetration to hit 81 million units in the EU, China and US by 2030, with almost half of all kilometres to be driven by AVs. Meanwhile, KPMG notes the $50 billion poured into the developing technology over the past five years, along with the range of predicted benefits – such as the overwhelming reduction in pollution and road fatalities, increases in mobility, and a productivity boost that could be worth up to $1.3 trillion per year to the US economy alone – which align public and private interests to make AV adoption a given.

The question, the firm says, is no longer whether but when, with the simple answer that the question is basically irrelevant; “whether you believe that it will take 10 years or 30, the implications are so far-reaching that policymakers need to start planning now for our AV future.” There are very good reasons for such an assertion, not the least of which is contemporary investment into long-term capital projects, which “will determine the development of our countries and cities for decades.” Changes to road infrastructure will need to be considered, along with planning in areas such as public transport, parking, and urban and rural development. 

Most ready country for self-driving cars

The undercurrent; a lack of foresight or unnecessary resistance now could prove highly costly, with obsolete infrastructure, wasted spending, and an inability to realise the full social and economic potential of AVs – granting a distinct competitive economic advantage to early adopting nations. The greatest barrier for a mature economy is arguably then its leaders and citizenry, areas in which one will feed into the other. In this respect, Singapore leads the globe in its planning and attitude toward AV technology, ranking first worldwide for policy & legislation and consumer acceptance – to achieve an overall readiness score behind only that of the Netherlands.

Further to these categories, Singapore also scored a second-place rating for infrastructure (again, behind the Netherlands), and was only let down slightly by an eighth-placed ranking on technology & innovation (in which the US reigned and the Dutch came in at fourth), costing the small island city-state the globe’s top spot for autonomous vehicle preparedness. Altogether, the US ranked third behind Singapore, with Sweden and the UK rounding out the top five and South Korea (10th) and Japan (11th) the only other Asian nations featuring in the top dozen.

In terms of policy & legislation, Singapore received a maximum score for regulation along with 'government-funded pilots', with the report citing the 2017 amendment to the country’s Road Traffic Act which allows for self-driving vehicles to be tested on public roads, as well as the establishment of a single entity to coordinate AV development in the country. In respect to consumer acceptance, the KPMG report notes that the whole of Singapore is effectively a test-area for AVs, allowing residents to witness their development, while research suggests that Singaporeans are more open to the technology than their global peers.

As it stands, the county’s infrastructure rating – with strong scores for road and mobile network quality – is only undermined by the current low density of electric charging stations, a factor which could be relatively easily addressed. And while Singapore slips in the rankings due to an average technology & innovation rating, with a lack of technology company headquarters, investments and patents, and a low uptake of electric vehicles, the authors of the report indicate that this condition is balanced by a significant number of AV industry partnerships and a positive rating on the availability of contemporary technology.

Altogether, the results of the study suggest that Singapore is perhaps the best placed globally for the early nation-wide adoption of autonomous vehicles, with favourable conditions in the most important category determinants and only lagging for now in the more easily addressable areas. The report concludes; “While the US is the clear global leader on innovation, it has an average rating on legislation and does little better on infrastructure… Road transport relies on the quality of road infrastructure as well as the regulatory environment that determine access to that infrastructure. Strong performances in both these areas give Singapore the second-highest score in the index.”