After a few years of watching the development of automated vehicles, in 2014 Andrew Somers decided that this should become a priority area for Transoptim. The mission of Transoptim is to “work closely with clients and assist and support them to optimise the performance of their transport networks”. It had become clear that the future operation of road and transport networks was so intertwined with the rise of vehicle automation and connectivity that you could not plan for the future without knowing more about automated vehicles.
Once vehicle automation progresses to the point of driverless vehicles this will necessarily be a disruptive trend for transport. This will occur within our current transport planning horizon and the extent of disruption associated with a transformational change in mobility options and mode share should not be underestimated, nor should the impacts on people and businesses currently associated with transport services.
We should not see automated vehicles as offering the long sought after silver bullet for congestion, indeed perhaps quite the opposite. The image below from copenhagenize.eu makes this point simply yet clearly:
I suspect the effect of this image would be even stronger if it were able to highlight that quite a few of these vehicles are not even carrying people due to empty running!
So if driverless cars may not offer the end to congestion, why is Transoptim advocating for people to become more aware and for Australia to accelerate a program of demonstrations and pilots? Because regardless of what we may choose, vehicle automation is continuing and driverless cars are coming. In addition, increased automation offers signficant safety benefits and improved mobility for those who might otherwise suffer isolation. We need to prepare for this disruptive change, so that we can better take advantage of the opportunities that driverless cars do offer and hopefully the future does not look like copenhagenize.eu suggest.