The Autonomous Vehicles revolution is coming and Australia has the opportunity to learn from the rest of the world

The 2018 KPMG Autonomous Vehicles (AV) Readiness Index is the first study of its kind, examining how 20 selected nations rate in terms of progress and capacity for adapting AV technology. The Index evaluates each country according to four pillars that are integral to the adoption and integration of autonomous vehicles: policy & legislation, technology & innovation, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.

Overall, Australia ranks 14th out of 20.

The report finds: “On technology and innovation Australia has few AV technology headquarters and patents, the research found no relevant investments and few Australians drive electric cars.”

Australia scores reasonably well on AV-related policy and legislation, while on infrastructure we receive a maximum score for the quality of our mobile networks.

But we have a middle ranking for the quality of our roads and availability of 4G and currently, importantly, we have very few electric charging stations.

A key issue specific to Australia is our federation. It is crucial state and federal authorities collaborate so we can establish a universal platform to support AV transitioning across the nation.

Another key question is, “what we want as a country?”

Do we prioritise consumer choice or do we believe there is more economic opportunity in a deliberate strategy to introduce AVs into high value fleets (e.g. freight and logistics) or corridors (e.g. key motorways)?

Getting this over-arching strategy right will create consumer and investor confidence by giving certainty on where we are headed. It will also determine the regulatory model we need.

The market scale in Australia doesn’t rival much of the world, but we can match the innovation achieved in other countries as long as the policy and regulatory settings are right.

While high price is often mentioned as a reason for the low take-up of electric cars in Australia, the cost of automated and electric vehicles is already declining rapidly and will in the near future be comparable to an average sedan now (i.e. around $30k).

The lack of charging infrastructure is a big issue. We commend the approach of the Victorian Government which asked for independent advice from Infrastructure Victoria on the charging and other infrastructure required to enable the implementation of the automated and zero emission vehicles in that state.

Similar detailed research is needed across Australia as regions have different infrastructure requirements, driven in part by varying socio-economic groups and urban development patterns.

To facilitate the growth of autonomous vehicles we urge the commonwealth and state governments to take relevant actions to safeguard the liveability and productivity of our cities in the autonomous era.

These actions include:

1. Road pricing reform is a priority to manage demand for car travel, and as a policy lever to encourage ride sharing.

2. Assist with a dedicated AV testing facility, tailored to simulate Australian road conditions that can be used by the global Original Equipment Manufacturers to test and ensure the technology is suitable for Australian cities and regions.

3. Consider autonomous electric vehicles in our infrastructure planning and investment decision making processes. This includes the take-up of autonomous ride-sourcing services and the implications for travel behaviour and land use.

4. Encourage an eventual transition from private ownership to ride sourcing and car sharing for daily travel. This includes promoting business models that provide these services. Governments must also ensure high quality alternatives to car travel are available, including public transport, walking and cycling.

Planning today for an AV future is essential, because it is not a question of if, but when AVs becomes ubiquitous. Embracing partnerships between government and the private sector can speed technology development, while helping ensure that the use of autonomous vehicles meets public policy objectives.

It is important to engage all stakeholders, government, business and citizens, with AV planning, as, in the future, it will impact all aspects of life.

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2 thoughts on “The Autonomous Vehicles revolution is coming and Australia has the opportunity to learn from the rest of the world

  1. The rest of Australia also has something to learn from WA. WA is proud to be leading Australia’s very first automated vehicle trial with the RAC Intellibus. Perth is also set to be the first city in Australia – and amongst the very first in the world – to test driverless passenger vehicles designed as an on-demand shared mobility service.

  2. What a confused article!

    Autonomous Vehicles do not have to be electric and Ride sharing is a separate issue again.

    Autonomous trucks will be a huge productivity gain for interstate freight (and either a threat or AV opportunity for railways). The first and easiest truck to make autonomous is the highway truck that does a Sydney – Melbourne run. The driver is about 35% of the cost and one tank of diesel will cover the whole trip. So the truck can travel at a fuel optimum 90km/hr on the dual carriageway non stop. No fatigue breaks, no meal breaks, optimum fuel usage, fully GPS monitored.

    Making the truck electric or hydrogen fuelled is possible but will take much longer to achieve. Electric trucks only make sense for cubic freight, not Mass limited, (due to loss of payload for a heavy battery).

    Autonomous Taxis also have a huge productivity gain. The driver is about 45% of the costs. Make it electric and the gains get bigger. But AVs in the city are going to have a bigger challenge both technically and with consumer acceptance. Crashes with human driven cars will be a big PR hurdle.

    The fact that Australia is not HQ for many Tech companies will be little impediment. Not one smart phone is designed or made in Australia, yet we have very high adoption rates.

    The guys on the cutting edge bleed, better to be the fast second adopters and cut through.

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