Ma­chines to take over

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

AU­TON­O­MOUS cars will be crit­i­cal to cut­ting the road toll to­wards zero but that may leave no room for hu­mans to take the wheel. That’s the view of Univer­sity of NSW ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ex­pert Toby Walsh.

Speak­ing ahead of this week’s driver­less car tri­als and con­fer­ence in South Aus­tralia, Walsh says au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles are a so­ci­etal gamechanger and Aus­tralia will be an early adopter, with the panel pro­ject­ing 2025-2030 as a likely time to see fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles (those ca­pa­ble of driver­lessly un­der­tak­ing a doorto-door jour­ney) on our roads.

“It’s go­ing to be a trans­for­ma­tion of trans­porta­tion ... per­haps as trans­for­ma­tional as when we very first had the au­to­mo­bile,” Walsh pre­dicts.

“We’re go­ing to look back in 20 or 30 years’ time and won­der how we let peo­ple drive such dan­ger­ous ve­hi­cles on the roads in Aus­tralia. I sus­pect it won’t be ac­cept­able to drive a car ex­cept in ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances like on a race­track.”

Walsh says the high num­ber of trucks and cars driv­ing long dis­tances in Aus­tralia makes them prime can­di­dates for au­to­ma­tion.

“High­ways are much eas­ier than ur­ban driv­ing to fully au­to­mate and we have an ageing work­force of truck driv­ers ... so there are go­ing to be eco­nomic rea­sons to adopt some of th­ese tech­nolo­gies early on.”

Michael Re­gan of the ARRB Group says younger peo­ple will be the early adopters be­cause they’ve grown up with an es­tab­lished trust in new tech­nol­ogy while those “longer in the tooth” will take time to cede con­trol of the ve­hi­cle.

“From a pub­lic ac­cep­tance point of view there was a bit of re­search done re­cently that showed in Aus­tralia some­thing like 40 per cent of peo­ple who were aged in their 40 or 50s were un­likely, when they hopped into a driver­less ve­hi­cle, to be able to take their eyes off the road,” Re­gan says.

The panel of ex­perts cite eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­van­tages in every­thing from in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums (fewer crashes) to hav­ing fewer ve­hi­cles on the road be­cause of the ef­fi­ciency of au­ton­o­mous car-shar­ing ser­vices.

Flin­ders Univer­sity head of civil en­gi­neer­ing Rocco Zito says au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles are al­ready here, it’s just a case of the level of au­ton­omy and the ve­hi­cle-to-ve­hi­cle and ve­hi­cleto-in­fras­truc­ture com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­pand­ing.

“We have the tech­nol­ogy (for fully au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles to con­trol the en­tire jour­ney). It’s not re­ally a tech­no­log­i­cal ques­tion any more it’s re­ally an in­te­gra­tion ques­tion.”

“Here in South Aus­tralia we’ve al­ready started the process of chang­ing the leg­is­la­tion to le­gally al­low au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles drive on our roads,” he says.

South Aus­tralia has joined sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries and the US states of Cal­i­for­nia and Ne­vada in al­low­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle test­ing on pub­lic roads.

Volvo will demon­strate the au­ton­o­mous driv­ing abil­ity of its XC90 SUV this week­end on a closed sec­tion of Ade­laide’s South­ern Ex­press­way.

As the first Aus­tralian state to sup­port au­ton­o­mous tri­als, the SA Gov­ern­ment is sup­port­ing lo­cal com­pa­nies such as Co­hda, which will show­case its V2X-Radar this week.

Co­hda says the 360-de­gree radar is un­af­fected by rain or snow and uses the es­tab­lished con­nected ve­hi­cle wire­less pro­to­cols and 3D map­ping to “see around cor­ners” by de­tect­ing when the sig­nals bounce off build­ings, signs and con­ven­tional, un­con­nected cars.

Google drive: Google's new self­driv­ing pro­to­type car will soon make its de­but on pub­lic roads

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