SYDNEY, Australia — South Australia may have gotten a head start with trials in 2015, but New South Wales (NSW) is also committing to a driverless car future.
Automated cars without drivers could be on NSW roads within five years, the state’s minister for transport, Andrew Constance, predicted at a summit on the future of transport in Sydney Monday. “We’re going to have driverless cars on our streets, in our suburbs,” he told reporters.
In his opinion, the South Australian government may have “jumped the gun a little bit” with its initial road tests last year. To support its own rollout of driverless cars, the NSW State Government announced the creation of a Smart Innovation Centre in western Sydney. The facility will host research on the impact of emerging transport and road technology.
The government has a big job ahead of them, Constance acknowledged: “If I look at the ways in which we’re going to have to change our transport planning, our road networks, the way in which insurance is going to change, all of this is going to happen incredibly quickly and I want us to be front and centre,” he said.
“Everybody’s transport is going to change: The driving age, the speed limits, the way in which traffic lights are configured … We’re going to make sure the legislative and regulatory requirements are changed.”
Not to be left out, public transport will also undergo major shifts as automation technology improves. “As well as driverless cars, there will be driverless buses,” he said, pointing to work already underway on the upcoming automated Sydney metro system.
The impact of automation
“The private car is going the way of the horse,” Peter Schwartz, global senior vice president at Salesforce, predicted.
He suggested the uptake of automated transport will be driven initially by the improved road safety and lower insurance costs it offers. The change will be driven by small steps at first, including automated braking and lane keeping, as drivers can already experience in cars by companies like Tesla Motors.
According to Schwartz, in the future, rather than having a car in the garage, you’ll simply hire a driverless car for only as long as you need it. “Mobility as a service not a product,” he explained.
But what about all those transport workers who could be put out of work by automation? Constance wouldn’t say if the government is considering putting together compensation arrangements for public transport workers who lose their jobs to robotics, similar to the “industry adjustment” package received by the taxi industry when the government legalised ridesharing in late 2015.
“The jobs of the future are going to be very different, our education system has to change in that regard, and ultimately, how the government helps people re-skill,” he said.
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