Driver­less so­lu­tion for city traf­fic jams

Auckland City Harbour News - - OUT & ABOUT - JOSH FA­GAN

Driver­less cars are be­ing touted as a mod­ern fix for Auck­land’s traf­fic mess.

With the city’s pop­u­la­tion grow­ing and mo­tor­ways groan­ing un­der peak hour grid­lock, trans­port au­thor­i­ties are look­ing at so­lu­tions out­side the box - in­clud­ing re­mov­ing hu­mans from be­hind the wheel.

And while pro­mot­ing the use of more cars to re­duce traf­fic may seem counter-in­tu­itive, a study com­mis­sioned by the gov­ern­ment and Auck­land Coun­cil sug­gested that once there were enough au­to­mated ve­hi­cles on the road con­ges­tion would de­crease and ef­fi­ciency would im­prove.

In other words, sit back, re­lax and your car will drive you home quicker than you ever could.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges said it was closer than we think, with au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles ex­pected to see a re­newed fo­cus in 2017.

He said a good ex­am­ple was the trial of driver­less shut­tles at Christchurch Air­port due to start this year.

In the short term, he said rather than a sud­den in­flux of fully au­to­mated ve­hi­cles it was likely we would see au­to­mated shut­tles tak­ing peo­ple to and from places like sta­tions.

That would pro­vide the step­ping stone to­ward a fully au­to­mated, fully con­nected net­work of driver­less cars, he said.

Once the tech­nol­ogy was com­mer­cially vi­able to the point where they were com­mon­place on the roads it would mean a bet­ter use of roads and the need to build new traf­fic lanes would de­crease in Auck­land.

The re­port said that for any sub­stan­tial ben­e­fits to come from re­con­fig­ur­ing road space for the use of con­nected and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, at least half of all cars would need to be au­ton­o­mous.

That mark was ex­pected to be reached by 2055 and could re­sult in a 22 per cent im­prove­ment in road ca­pac­ity, the 2015 re­port from Univer­sity Col­lege London and Univer­sity of Auck­land said.

Bridges said driver­less cars could be legally tri­alled on the roads right now.

‘‘New Zealand is well placed to test au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles as our leg­is­la­tion does not ex­plic­itly re­quire a driver to be present for a ve­hi­cle to be used on the road, which means so long as a ve­hi­cle meets rel­e­vant safety stan­dards, and the test­ing is car­ried out safely, we could test a truly driver­less ve­hi­cle to­day.’’ rail­way and bus

DOMINICO ZA­P­ATA/FAIRFAX NZ

Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges cham­pi­ons driver­less cars.

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