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Minister’s take on congestion and the opportunity of automated vehicles

Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, The Hon Alan Tudge MP

On 25 February 2019, the Federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, The Hon Alan Tudge MP, gave a speech at the Australia-New Zealand Cities Symposium, entitled Cities, congestion and the opportunity of automated vehicles.

The topic is not a new one for the Mr Tudge. This from his maiden speech in Parliament, in 2010:

‘Aston shares a problem with many outer suburban areas: the issue of congestion, which impinges on quality of life. The journey from Vermont South to work in the city used to be a simple 30-minute drive; today, it takes an hour or more, assuming you leave very early. You simply multiply the chaos the further you stretch out along and from Burwood Highway. Congestion is crushing the fundamental choices of where to work and study. We may be getting wealthier but if our choices are diminishing we are lesser for it.’

Speech excerpts from ‘Cities, congestion and the opportunity of automated vehicles’

Politicking within the speech aside, it is good to hear that the issue of congestion, and the possibilities ahead for automated vehicles, is front of mind for the Government. And whatever happens politically in the next couple of months, we hope these issues continue to be front of mind, at all levels of government.

Below are passages from Mr Tudge’s speech. For the full text of the speech visit the Cities, congestion and the opportunity of automated vehicles speech page on the Ministerial website.

On the loss of time …

‘Australians in our biggest cities are spending more time stuck in traffic than ever before, particularly in Melbourne, Sydney and South East Queensland — the areas which have accounted for three quarters of Australia’s total population growth over the last five years. And as we all know, more time in the car means less time at home with our families, and less time to spend productively at work.’

On cities and infrastructure …

‘All big cities have some congestion and people understand this, but much of the congestion in our big cities has come about from avoidable factors. In particular the lack of infrastructure to cater for the very fast population growth; and the lack of coordination between the federal government (that controls the major population growth lever, migration) and the state government which is primarily responsible for building the roads and rail and service delivery.’

On automated vehicles …

‘Depending on the uptake, automated vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce congestion on our roads within a decade.

New modelling from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics indicates that by 2030, congestion costs would drop by more than a quarter if automated vehicles account for 30 per cent of kilometres travelled (a “fast penetration scenario”). They estimate it would drop from $37 billion of avoidable congestion to $27 billion.

This is an incredible figure. It is the equivalent to the outcome you would get from tens of billions of dollars of added road and rail capacity.’

On the timescale of when automated vehicles will start to make the potential improvements …

‘The potential congestion alleviating benefits seem clear, but is the uptake of automated vehicles likely to happen?

It certainly won’t be happening on a mass scale tomorrow or next year, but in a decade’s time, automated vehicles will almost certainly be a significant feature of large cities around the world. This is the view of many experts in the field.’

On what’s happening in Australia already …

‘… we have trials occurring and already taking people. For example, the Royal Automobile Club of WA has developed its ‘Intellibus’ trial involving a fully driverless electric shuttle bus in Perth, supported by a grant from our Government through our Smart Cities and Suburbs program. The trial involves testing the shuttle bus in a variety of settings and scenarios, with various degrees of interaction with road users. The trial, now in its final stage, has already carried 11,000 passengers along the 3.5 kilometre route on public roads.’

On learning from the past …

‘While much of the implementation will be at the state level, it is important that there is national consistency in policy or else we will have new “rail gauge” problem where an AV car from Victoria may be unable to “read” the road or be authorised to drive on it in New South Wales.’

And on looking ahead …

‘The Office of Future Technologies has been tasked to collaborate across governments to ensure automated vehicles are safe, to consider future infrastructure needs, to make sure cyber security safeguards are in place, and to support Australian businesses in taking advantage of new commercial opportunities.

The Office will play a leading role in the national coordination of new transport technologies and ensure that there is a supportive regulatory framework and policies, consistent with international best practice.’

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