Driverless solutions for city traffic jams
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 railway and bus stations.
That would provide the step- ping 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, the need to build new traffic lanes would decrease which would have been needed 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.’’