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Technology promises transport upheaval

Switch off: Several manufacturers are working on having their first autonomous car on roads by 2020.

Smart roads, autonomous cars, tech-savvy passengers will change personal mobility

5 May 2014

THE confluence of intelligent transport systems, smartphones and, eventually, the autonomous car promises to radically alter the way people think about personal transportation, according to a US expert.

The availability of car-share schemes is already changing the way young people think about driving and transport in general, said Scott Belcher, chief executive of ITS America, the association promoting the adoption of intelligent transport systems in the US.

When backed up by the creation of smart roads through the use of intelligent transport systems, this could turn the current concept of private transport on its head, he said.

And he said Victoria might be one of the first places in the world to see it happen.

“One of the great things about Australia and Victoria and Melbourne is you guys are real leaders in some of this,” he told an ITS Australia business and networking event.

“Ramp metering (co-ordinating freeway on-ramps) and figuring out how to leverage that. You’ve taken the lead in managed lanes.

“In the States we are barely starting to use managed lanes. And that’s the future, really, starting to think about these systems holistically.”

He said the improvements in traffic management would mesh with the trend among younger people not to aspire to car ownership, although they would have a driving licence.

“My 19 year-old son views the world completely differently to the way I do.

“He doesn’t own a car. He didn’t get his licence until he was 18. When I was 16, I had a car and I had a licence and that’s all I could think about.

“These guys are more worried about this,” he said, holding up his mobile phone.

“They’re more worried about being connected than they are than having cars.”

Mr Belcher said that, when most of the people at the ITS business event wanted to get somewhere, they went outside, got in their car and drove.

“Not my kids. They figure out are they going to use ZipCar or Car2Go and rent a car by the hour because that’s easier, they can do what they need to do and it’s cheaper.

“Or are they going to share a ride? Can they tap into a social network and share a ride and maybe pay just a couple of dollars to share a car seat, making that private car part of the public transport system?”“They do this stuff. That’s the world they live in and that’s the world that is going to continue to change.

“Now, start to think about all these things colliding. Put the shared use mobility environment with autonomous vehicles.”“If I want to go to my hotel, I dial up a car, it takes me there, then it is used by the next person.”

He said there would be major implications for the road traffic authorities when autonomous vehicles were allowed to use roads controlled by a central management centre.

“If you are a road operator, what does that do to your system? Do you need traffic signals anymore? Do you need 12-foot wide lanes any more?“That’s the world we are living in. It’s exciting to be part of it, and it’s scary as hell.”“When I talk to my ITS America members and I look at them, I know that a quarter of them will not be in business in five years because they are not staying on top of this, they are not partnering with new companies, they are not embracing the challenge.

“You’ve got to embrace this, you have got to have new partnerships, you have got to work with companies you are not comfortable working with, you have got to embrace the new generation of startups. Some of these companies are doing things we can’t imagine.

“That’s the future of transportation right now.”

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