How Southeast Asia is Driving Into the Future

​The mobility trends that are paving the way for a smooth-running future.
Wednesday 15 May 2019
The future of mobility is now. Photo: iStock

Technology has changed the way we live our lives, especially how we get around. Southeast Asia’s booming economy and dense population spell the need to constantly look for ways to improve our means of getting from point A to point B. Here are some of the mobility trends paving the way for a greener and more efficient means of transit.

Electric vehicles.

Congested roads are an all too familiar sight in Southeast Asia, a region with huge automotive demand. A report by Frost and Sullivan reveals the region’s major automotive makers, including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, account for over four million units of automobiles in production. However, electric vehicles are only just cruising into the region’s market with major manufacturers looking at the region to expand their EV business. Hyundai has revealed its plans to open a car plant to manufacture its latest fleet of EVs in Indonesia as part of a US$880 million auto investment in the country, marking the first car factory in the region for the South Korean manufacturer.

Indonesia is also looking at tapping into its abundant reserves of nickel laterite ore, a vital component for making lithium-ion batteries, which is at the heart of all EVs. A Reuters article states that Indonesia, which is the region’s second largest car production hub after Thailand, has announced plans to introduce a fiscal scheme of tax cuts for EV battery producers and auto manufacturers and preferential tariff agreements with countries that have high EV demands. The move is a bid to make the country a hub of EV manufacturing. Another major player that is eyeing Indonesia is MitsubishiMotors which has revealed its ambition to boost EV development there; it is currently researching EV infrastructure in the country.

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Photo: iStock

Elsewhere in the region, Dyson has picked Singapore as its base to manufacture its first electric car, with plans for a two-storey plant to be completed next year and a possible electric car launch in 2021. Dyson’s Singapore expansion is part of a £2.5 billion (US$3.25 billion) global investment in new technology. Earlier this year, Dyson reported a 33% climb in profits for 2018, according to a report on, earning a record high profit of £1.1 billion (US$1.42 billion) last year, on a 28% revenue growth that took its turnover to £4.4 billion (US$5.67 billion).

But what’s the use of introducing EVs if there aren’t many means to charge them? That’s where Singapore Power Group comes in. In January, SP Group rolled out 38 charging points across eight locations in the country, including 19 units of the 50kW direct current charger that can fully charge an EV in 30 minutes. The move was part of SP Group’s goal of building a network of 1,000 charging points in the country by 2020.

Autonomous vehicles.

Singapore is hands down the leader of the pack when it comes to the autonomous vehicles (AV) trend in Southeast Asia. Earlier this year, KPMG’s 2019 Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index ranked the island-city state number two as the best-prepared country for AVs after the Netherlands, taking into account factors such as a measure of readiness for AV adoption, policy and legislation, tech and innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.

Singapore ticks all those boxes, especially on the legislation side. In 2017, the country’s Ministry of Transport introduced Autonomous Vehicle rules to prep for trials of self-driving vehicles in the country, making Singapore one of the first countries to be open to autonomous transportation. Although the rules have since been revised to be more in tune with safety and ensure a smooth transition from the testing phase to taking on the real streets, the technology is still very much a big goal for the country as the government is currently aiming to roll out autonomous buses in selected areas by as early as 2022.

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Photo: iStock

Autonomous startups are also flocking to the 2-hectare testing field at Nanyang Technological University that emulates real-life street conditions to test AV technology. CNN highlighted the country’s ambition to use AVs to aid the elderly and the disabled in getting around. Moovita, an autonomous vehicle startup based in Singapore that also has offices in Malaysia, created the MooAV, a robotic self-driving vehicle that aims to help those facing difficulties with transportation.

Meanwhile, a huge player in the driverless market, Boston-based self-driving car startup NuTonomy has been extensively testing in Singapore and aims to bring a fleet of driverless taxis using a smartphone-based ride-hailing tech into the small country.

This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s May 2019 issue from the article GET A MOVE ON.

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