AITPM Newsletter Editor, David Brown, attended the three days of the 4th International Driverless Vehicle Summit organised by Australian and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI). The ADVI is operating under the auspices of ARRB.
Here are a few reflections which will ultimately be turned into a series of short informational pieces.
1. A strong dose of reality is setting in. The expectation for achieving level five full autonomy (anywhere any time so you don’t need pedals or a steering wheel) is declining and it will certainly take longer to get there.
2. Assisted driving (rather than full autonomy) represents the real changes that will appear in the foreseeable future
3. It is still big business. It is estimated that the autonomous vehicle and associated industries has value of $7 trillion a year (not millions or billions) and will soon be $13 trillion.
What are some of the problems?
1. To cope will all conceivable situations is extremely complex
2. Governments change legislation and even implement trials (such as a 40 km hour speed limit past emergency vehicles). Vehicle companies must develop new technologies quickly for what might only be a short-term need.
3. If you make a vehicle autonomous for today will it still be so in 15 years’ time?
4. What happens if there is no driver to take responsibility for the car or heavy vehicle. Who is regularly checking the tyres, etc?
Where are we with trials?
There are very many trials currently, in clearly defined, minimal conflict areas such parks, small local areas, campuses, docks, airports (for carting baggage to and from the aircraft) or motorways
1. There is some concern that we are doing a lot of high level theorising but we need to get more practical people involved in the analysis of the results and the determination of further developments.
2. I spoke to EasyMile who have built the vehicles and the software for vehicles that are being used in a number of trials in Australia. They say that some of the most productive discussions they have had are when they sit down with town planners rather than play catch up after something has been built.
What’s the public perception?
1. The general community relationship with transport needs and our use of various modes is changing or at least evolving.
2. The PR problem is that 1,000 successes with autonomous vehicles will be swamped by one failure.
3. There is a need to understand the difference between a better system and a perfect system
4. Transport for NSW is experimenting with using Instagram to communicate some messages
5. With education we need to understand the difference between static and dynamic approaches. It is not enough to simply tell people; we have to engage with them
Is government doing enough?
While the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, didn’t mention it, Andrew Constance, the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads, admitted that governments had been slow off the mark and they now recognise their need to play an active role in guiding and managing the development of this industry.
Much of the summit centred around the transport of people but the issue of freight is critical in a number of areas.
Platooning of trucks down a motor way is progressing but this could be taken further. While not raised at this conference there is work being done on managing platooning. Rather than trucks joining up if they happen to be travelling at the same time, a management process could organise trucks to be at one location and even put them in order for the best operation e.g. the first truck that will leave the platoon can go at the back.
The other critical area for freight is parcel delivery. It has been said that very fabric of major urban areas around the world is being transformed. In New York City, where more than 1.5 million packages are delivered daily, this push for convenience is having a huge impact on gridlock, roadway safety and pollution.