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Automated cars could add $5000 to cost

No hands: While some people have concerns about driverless cars taking over, experts say that there will be a function that allows the driver to take back control of the car.

A premium for automation is likely, but drivers should be able to switch it off

7 Mar 2016

AUTOMATED cars are expected to cost about $5000 more than a regular vehicle, but there are also legal and regulatory hurdles that need to be cleared before driverless cars take control of the roads, according to a Holden executive.

GM Holden director of corporate strategy and planning Anthony Riemann estimated the average extra cost for an automated vehicle, but said that prices should drop when the tech becomes more widely available.

“There are a lot of studies about how much extra automated cars will cost,” he told a technical briefing in Melbourne last week.

“Most are talking around the $4000 to $6000 range, not $20,000 to $30,000. It will be more incremental, the initial cost of hardware and, over time, you’d expect that to come down.”

While that sounds a lot when considering the cost of the new Holden Spark micro car, that will retail from $13,990 plus on-roads, Mr Riemann said automated cars were still in the development phase.

“By the time it gets to that level of the market, who knows what the cost will be? It could be very different.

“Remember, it was the 7 Series and S-Classes that first introduced the 7.0-inch touchscreen, and now we’ve got it across the range on our Spark.

“It's the same with any new technology. It’s going to be more expensive to start with and then proliferate down.”

Although it appears the technology has moved ahead of regulators, governments were now starting to focus on the regulatory and policy changes that will be needed to facilitate the adoption of automated vehicles, Adelaide-based Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Australia executive director Emil Bolongaita told the briefing.

CMU has been working with GM for more than a decade on automated vehicles and related issues.

“For many years they have been fence-sitting, but now the US department of transportation has announced it will provide a $4 billion facility for research on a number of areas, including policy reforms, legal and regulatory reforms that need to be taken,” Mr Bolongaita said.

“There is significant investment in resources going forward to ensure that policy will not lag behind.

“In South Australia, they are trying to address these issues through their proposal for legislation that will allow for driverless trials in SA. It’s a big step for the technology, to ensure they help the technology develop, not hinder it.”

The briefing also heard that keen drivers can rest easy as it is expected that at least some automated cars will have a function that will enable the driver to take control when there is a clear road and a few corners ahead.

“There are a number of opinions on that one,” Mr Riemann said.

“I think you have always got to have the capability for those that want to drive a car to drive a car. In an urban environment there is a lot more benefit for people to be in an automatic car where they can get around without having to worry about the driving.

“But when you get out to an open, regional road, there are people who are going to want to drive. If you look way way into the future, there are definitely going to be cars that people will be able to drive.”

He said it could break down along geographic lines, between congested cities and open regional areas.

“Look at car ownership in New York. Australia is characterised by huge distances, but in those urban megalopolises like New York, car ownership is so small. That’s why the emphasis is on urban transport to start with.

“Some of the studies talk about people like you and me who want to go and drive something great and have fun. There’ll be race tracks, there’ll be areas that are autonomous and those that aren’t.

“Clubs will get together because they like to do it, so those people that have the will and the want to do it, there will always be vehicles and opportunities to be able to maintain that.

“But I think in the future there will be places like New York and London, where you won’t be able to drive into manually yourself.”

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