What should be the norm before self-driving cars knock on our doors?

THE idea of self-driving cars probably came from the 1980’s hit series Knight Rider which featured KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), a superpowered intelligent car.

In the series the focus is on a Pontiac Trans-Am that can drive 300 miles an hour, is bulletproof, fireproof, can talk but most importantly, it self-drives and can come when called, to your doorstep.

While the super-car helps the hero Michael Knight fight injustices in the world, it will be a different ball game in real-life. Once it becomes a reality in our day-to-day living, intelligent cars will help us solve traffic problems and with a twist it will also solve a lot of other issues, starting with car ownership and traffic woes.

The fact is that Singapore has gone leaps in its preparedness for self-driving cars on its roads, with months of testing and new regulations implemented in this direction.

Two years ago, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) offered 6km of test routes in one-north. The tests started in July 2015, and the LTA doubled them a year later.

The start of these tests gave rise to immense interest among car enthusiasts in the tiny republic, and that spilled to other countries in the Asean region.

As for me and many others, it was the beginning of the realisation of the Knight Rider dream, but for the rest of the Asean well either they are well behind or they are simply not in the game yet.

If they are not, they have to buckle up as this is the future and it is one that will be linked with an environmental-friendly concept of driving around town. And what about indulging in long-distance driving in countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia for example?

With a new decade looming close on our heads we are in leaping into the last quarter of 2017 in less than eight days, and we will be in 2018 in less than 120 days and yet we are still not ready to adopt self-driving or non-fuel based automobiles.

Regulations are still based on fuel cars running on our streets and they are not to see any changes soon, which is a pitiful situation since the real game today is to become more environmentally conscious and the self-driving-electric-car era is part of the game plan.

In Singapore, they are as said earlier acting on it. The US self-driving car startup nuTonomy, together with its partner Grab, is hopeful that it will be able to launch a paid, commercial ride service as soon as the second quarter of next year,

And that is a rapidly approaching deadline that will put the rest of the Asean far behind in the route towards cleaner and safer driving on the highways.

Whether you believe in global warming or not, the fact remains that climate change is happening and we can see it on a seasonal basis.

Some of these changes can be out of natural consequences, some of it is surely caused by us humans abusing of the world’s resources. Yet, something must be done to halt the decay of the environment in order to reduce pollution.

But besides environmental concerns based on pollution and climate change, there is also the need to regulate the number of cars and other vehicles on our roads.

This entails the regulation of car ownership, for example, and believe it or not, Singapore is going into that direction if I am to understand their plans to tackle the hours of “idle” vehicles in parking lots and in front of homes.

Like it or not, this too has to do with an environment-friendly era since fewer cars blockading the lanes in the housing estates will be a most welcoming moment in our lifetime.

Kazi is Malay Mail business editor for Malay Mail – This article first appeared in Malay Mail Money print edition

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