Technology has a way of dissolving into the background of our fast-paced lives until we don’t realise it’s there.

My two year old daughter’s first car will be automated and driverless. It’s equally likely that she will not own it; and possibly when asked about it, her description will be to its colour, on-board facilities and her travel subscription type.

All of us are set to become passengers, giving up the rite of passage from excited learner driver and nervous first timer, to explaining how you caught your first minor speeding fine. Those experiences will all be lost. Will it matter?

Many of the technology posts these days on social/business media are concerned with Automated Vehicles (AV). Although bombarded with details on Tesla’s latest feature and subjective predictions on the death of public transport, I believe that communicating and sharing ideas on the AV subject is essential for a positive outcome. The alternative is a passive and lazy acceptance of a technology that will revolutionise our basic understanding of the world in which we live.

 All of us are set to become passengers, giving up the rite of passage from excited learner driver and nervous first timer

As engineering and innovation professionals get involved in technological delivery at an early stage, the chance of an improved outcome for all increases. Working for SMEC, I have an opportunity to be involved in the direction AVs might take. The Company submitted an AV Position Paper to the ACT Government (September 2016). This work is progressing the partnership with the ADVI and has been adopted by the AITPM to develop a program of seminars to tackle the planning challenge.

Understanding how we will use transport modes is the key to planning for it.

I see three tiers of AV user, each responsible for different levels of on-road occupancy. The first being those who purchase a vehicle and either use it by themselves or allow it to run light-freight errands and transport others at a fee. The second, those who lease a selected vehicle for their own individual use, and the third, a blended user group where a subscription service is in place for a vehicle to provide travel at various times of day; the peak hours (if they continue to exist) being the most expensive time to travel.

Your level of ownership aside, what will you do with your in-vehicle time? Catch-up on your sleep, read your self-help book, network with the other commuters or continue scrolling through social media? With globalisation, improved telecoms and a gig-based economy, where activity-based work is emerging as a path to a powerful freedom, will we even need to travel at all?

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Author David Blair

David leads the SMEC’s Queensland & Northern Territory Transport Analytics team providing advice at a national and international level. David enjoys putting new theories to work and capturing the benefits across projects at an early stage.

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