New transport technology around the corner

Driverless vehicles and transport apps for smartphones are likely to alter our lifestyle, the time we spend in transit and the way we work, according to a report commissioned by the City of Melbourne.

When the toddlers of today come of age it is unlikely that they will need a driver’s licence, according to the author of a City of Melbourne commissioned report into emerging transport technologies.

‘Millennials are not going to display the same driving habits their parents did,’ said Dr Elliot Fishman from the Institute of Sensible Transport, whose report was tabled at Council earlier this year.

Dr Fishman said he would be surprised if his three-year-old daughter ever owned a car. Instead she might summon a shared driverless or ‘autonomous’ vehicle, or use a range of transport modes. Once she arrived at her destination, her vehicle would not need to park, but would instead head off to meet other passengers.

When applied to Greater Melbourne, such a scenario could see a dramatic change in the way we move around the city.

Even though our trusty existing modes of transport – bikes, cars, planes and trains – have not yet changed dramatically, we’re already seeing a difference in the way we use technology to interact with them, according to the Emerging transport technologies: assessing impacts and implications for the City of Melbourne.

The report explored ride-sourcing apps, car-sharing, GPS connected public bicycles and autonomous vehicles.

‘We need to take on a leadership role to ensure new transport technologies help us to shape Melbourne’s future as a proactive, modern and connected city’.

The findings showed that Melburnians and visitors already use new transport technologies such as the ride-sharing app Uber, and predicted that in the not too distant future we can expect smart journey planning apps, smartphone payment for all kinds of transport and shared transport schemes to be the norm.

The biggest transport disruption is likely to be caused by autonomous vehicles, which will possibly increase people’s average ‘travel time budget’, according to Dr Fishman.

‘People’s travel time budget has remained largely the same for thousands of years. About half an hour is about how long people will usually spend travelling to work’.

No matter how close people live to their place of work, they prefer to spend a ‘reasonable’ amount of time getting there, adapting their lifestyles and their commuter behaviour accordingly.

Growth in autonomous vehicle usage could mean commuters choose to live further away from their places of work, as they can engage in activities other than driving while in transit.

Autonomous vehicles could also challenge Australia’s high level of car ownership. In the future, access to a car is likely to become more important than ownership, according to the report.

American automotive and energy storage company, Tesla, is currently at the forefront of autonomous electric vehicle development, according to Dr Fishman, with technology giants Google and Apple also investing heavily in to autonomous vehicles.

This new breed of cars could have broader financial implications for all levels of government. The rise of electric vehicles could cut the amount of fuel excise tax flowing to the Federal Government, while decreased car ownership could also release money once tied up in expensive, depreciating assets. This could lead to increased personal spending elsewhere.

Over roughly the next 10 to 15 years, emerging transport technologies will need to be considered in the construction of upcoming major transport projects such as Melbourne Metro Rail Project and the proposed Western Distributor Project.

In the longer term, the demand for on-street and off-street parking might fall, while traffic congestion could rise in line with growing autonomous vehicle use.

The transport sector is undergoing rapid transformation and the way people move around Melbourne is changing, according to the transport portfolio Chair, Councillor Cathy Oke.

‘Local governments are responsible for the majority of the road network, the footpaths and on-street parking, as well as much of the city’s bicycle infrastructure. This means we need to take on a leadership role to ensure new transport technologies help us to shape Melbourne’s future as a proactive, modern and connected city’.

‘This report will inform our Future Melbourne community plan and strategies around transport. It enables us to make more informed decisions on how people move around cities, and how that might change in the future’, said Cr Oke.

‘These new technologies are a reality. With the right approach, policy makers can help adapt or respond to these disruptive technologies, to reduce any negative effects and harness their potential benefits’.

For more information, visit Research and Statistics.