Australia is behind on the rise of the autonomous car, but a new push by the National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) may force the government into action.
NRMA’s new chief executive, Rohan Lund, called for the government to allow autonomous car trials, let the private sector implement peer-to-peer networks for traffic, and add smart sensors to the roads.
“To solve the infrastructure and mobility challenges of the future, governments need to move beyond a business as usual approach,” said Lund to the AFR. “Simply building new infrastructure and throwing money at ad hoc projects will not of themselves solve congestion, improve travel times or future proof our infrastructure and transport services.”
Some of these technologies are already being implemented in smart cities as a way to lower congestion and improve parking. Autonomous cars will supposedly fix both of these issues as well, but it’s unlikely Australia will be the first country to try out the cars.
In the interim, NRMA wants the Australian government to legalize semi-autonomous driving on highways. Tesla’s already provides this system with its AutoPilot, but that is currently unavailable outside of the U.S., because it is considered “illegal” by most governments. And given the Aussie left-hand drive rules, they may have a point.
NRMA is not all talk, it plans to launch its own car sharing app to compete with Uber, GoGet, and Flexicar. The app will use vehicles from the Thrifty business, owned by NRMA, which has 27,000 cars.
“In a world where not everyone wants to own a car, or a second car for that matter, we can offer cars as a service at scale,” Lund said. “That may take the form of supplying a fleet for car hire, car sharing or even to Uber drivers.”
All of the innovative ideas may fall on deaf ears at the moment, in the middle of a federal election. It may also give Labor some talking points about how to revive the economy, though the party doesn’t seem too interested in private businesses controlling transport.