The NSW Transport and Infrastructure Minister has issued bold predictions about the likely impact of driverless cars upon urban development and the nature of transit planning in Australian cities.
According to Andrew Constance, the imminent arrival of driverless vehicles that are capable of operating independently will have profound implications for urban transport configurations. The NSW Minister sees the technology coming online in as soon as a decade, a radical change which will necessitate huge and vital preparations on the part of urban planners as the nature of car parking and public roadways undergo change.
"The advent of the driverless car is something which is going to completely transform transport planning," Constance said. "The technology is around the corner, it will be here within five to 10 years, so we are going to have to do an enormous amount of work very quickly."
Constance notes that the paradigm-changing nature of emerging technologies means governments must exercise greater caution when it comes to costly infrastructure decisions in order to avoid the development of assets that are obsolete upon arrival.
"I don't want to see governments making multibillion-dollar investments and then it turns out that the with the advent of driverless cars we've made the wrong decision," he said. "Governments have got to get smarter as we see smarter cities."
Constance noted that the taxi industry is a "classic case" of regulators failing to adapt swiftly enough to the economic changes wrought by the development of new technologies such as transportation app Uber, which have left traditional taxi service providers imperilled.
In order to keep pace with technological advances, he said, transportation authorities must focus more on analytical forecasts as well as regulatory updates, instead of remaining preoccupied with the construction of "shiny new toys."
While Constance's predictions may appear outlandish, leading cities around the world are already making preparations for the advance of driverless cars and the potential changes that public road systems will require to accommodate the automated vehicles.
The Canadian province of Ontario already plans to conduct trials of driverless vehicles on public roads as early as March next year, and will be accepting driverless test car licenses in November with issuances scheduled for January.
Michigan has gone as far as building a fake city to test the potential of the new vehicles in real world circumstances, while auto giant Volvo has been experimenting with the usage of magnetic roads to guide driverless cars since the start of last year.