This year’s edition of the Future Trends scenario, call it the SG50 edition if you like, is a departure from the norm. Typically, Future Trends scenarios are completely fictional in nature. Our previous scenarios were conceptualized based on prevailing hot topics that were then crafted with a Singaporean twist, a localized context in mind, and catapulted into the future. In fact, last year’s was so coincidental in nature that a couple of weeks after the scenario on preferential treatment for the elderly was released, the Pioneer Generation packages were made public by the government.

But a career in fortune-telling did not work out.

So we’re back with this year’s scenario.

However, this year’s scenario isn’t actually a scenario. This year’s scenario isn’t fictional in nature, yet it isn’t quite fact too. This year’s scenario is based on actual projections of Singapore’s land transport system in 2030.

You may ask, why land transport? Public transport has ignited heated debates in the press for the past 2 – 3 years, and is a perennial hot topic amongst Singaporeans. Last year, apart from the longstanding complaints about MRT breakdowns, much talk focused on smart mobility options, and in some cases, the lack of them. The Uber app comes to mind, and Taxi-Taxi@SG too, of course.

Hence, this year’s theme is ‘Smart Mobility’, and in this SG50 edition, let’s focus on the Land Transport Authority’s projections in 2030 based on their strategic plan. While the full strategic plan is attached at the bottom of the page as a reference, only the following excerpt (with some adaptations) forms our scenario for analysis:

"Bernice Tan, who is born and bred in Singapore, has never owned a car. She has never found the need to do so ever since she graduated and joined the workforce several years ago. She, together with her peers at her workplace, never understood the fuss made by senior colleagues over car ownerships. She recalled the time when her parents and her uncles were lamenting the reduction in vehicle quota to 0.5% in 2013, when she was still a student.

Bernice has always found it pleasant using the comprehensive Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network and public buses to get around. The fully automated MRT runs on schedule almost all the time. So do the public buses that are equipped with intelligent systems, notwithstanding the many cars, vans and lorries that share the limited road space. Even when it rains, she remains assuredly dry as she makes her way along well sheltered walkways or in underground passageways from the transport hub. Through her smart device, she is able to time her arrival at MRT stations and bus stops to minimize waiting time. Moreover, she will know whether the next arriving bus will have available seats. In fact, users’ appetite for such transport-related information has increased – information that was once deemed ‘unimportant’ became ‘good-to-have’ over time, and now it is a ‘must-have’.

On the few occasions when Bernice wants to drive, she will use a car from the car sharing scheme which she has subscribed to. The technology in the car has always been a marvel for her. The intelligent car sharing system allows users to locate the vehicle on their smart mobile devices and drive to their destination without having to return the car to its original location. The car can subsequently be picked up by another user from the previous location. Enroute to her destination, information is streamed continuously to the car to provide advice on the best route to her destination. Roadside furniture like traffic signals and road signs are also “talking” to her car, giving advice for safe and efficient travel. This has come some way since the satellite-based road pricing system was introduced, with its compact on-board unit doubling up as a parking assistant and a versatile traffic information device, among other useful features. Such innovations have only be made possible with the leveraging of data from location-aware mobile devices, application of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) technology, as well as deployment of state-of-the-art video detection and surveillance systems. All Bernice needs to do to find out more about information on the roads is to refer to her on-board unit. Even if some of the cars she had driven did not possess such advanced integrated in-vehicle systems, these information can also be accessed through her mobile app. She can even track the routes she had driven in the car if she so wants too – all these information is archived in the on-board unit.

But what fascinates her most are the occasions when the car would seamlessly take over control from the driver. Autonomous driving has become fashionable with higher-end vehicles, which she occasionally manages to get access. It would be at times like these, with the car making all the driving decisions, that she would literally sit back and appreciate all the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) that are used to make her daily travel so much more pleasant, safe and efficient in 2030."

Additional Reading (not part of the scenario):

ITS Strategic Plan for Singapore, published jointly by the Land Transport Authority and Intelligent Transport Society Singapore