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All cars on Australian roads will be driverless by 2030: Telstra exec

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The chief scientist at Australian telecommunications giant Telstra has joined the increasing number of industry watchers and insiders predicting not only that autonomous vehicles are the future of road transport, but that this future will arrive sooner than we think.

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In comments made at a Perth roads seminar on Friday, Tesltra chief scientists Hugh Bradlow predicted all vehicles on Australian roads would be driverless by 2030, and warned that road builders must begin work to create smart roads to interact with them.

The Australian reports that Dr Bradlow said his “conser­vative and realistic” forecast was based on the rate of autonomous car development, with 14 trials underway in California, as well as on the falling costs of retrofitting the technology to existing cars, which would soon fall to the $US1000 range.

“My expectation is that governments will very quickly ­realise that they need to make them mandatory to help overcome the statistic that 90 per cent of road accidents are caused by human error,’’ he said, adding that they would first need to agree on safety and communi­cations standards before building an intelligent road network.

In April, South Australia was the first state to legalise controlled testing of autonomous vehicles on the state’s roads after hosting driverless car trials last year, while an inquiry launched by the NSW parliament is working to research what a “driverless vehicles regulatory framework” would involve.

Dr Bradlow, who spoke as part of a series of Australian Asphalt and Pavement Association workshops around Australia this month, said the combination of autonomous ­vehicles and the use of ride-share services such as Uber and GoGet would remove vehicle numbers from Australian roads and ­reduce road capacity.

This echoes the thoughts of Tesla boss and founder Elon Musk, whose recently published Master Plan part two included the dual innovation goals of “develop(ing) a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning,” and enabling cars to make money for their owners when they aren’t using them.

“Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are,” Musk wrote. “Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.”

Of course, as we have reported, Musk has already hit some serious potholes along this road. Nonetheless, he argues in his blog that the technology “is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves, and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”  

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  • david_fta

    With the rate of deterioration in my eyesight, 2030 would be quite convenient for me …

  • john

    I agree and what has to be implemented is smart technology retrofitted to dumb cars ATM that is every vehicle on the road also the traffic guidance system has to be fitted with smart tech so every vehicle can have awareness technology; that can interact with the situation as it is happening and make the correct decisions.
    Mind with this all in place the driver will still have to be aware that people will just walk across the road straight in front of the vehicle.
    The number of pedestrian injuries to older and young people reflect this aspect.
    Is this difficult?
    Is it possible to do?
    Yes and yes not at all difficult at all.
    At least with smart tech we take away the 20% of frankly incompetent drivers who should not be behind the wheel of a lethal device.

    • A Wall

      It’s not just incompetence — the emotional state of human drivers hugely influences judgement. Not to mention lack-of-sleep, in-car distractions, etc

  • Rod

    AFAIK the South Australian test was on a closed road.
    I’m all for ride and car sharing but as a cyclist I am worried and dubious of the capability to “see” vulnerable road users. I can see the day where all cyclists and pedestrians will be required to wear a transponder. Who will be paying for the the Smart roads?? Tesla, drivers or Tax payers?
    With the amount of Texting (or are they pokemoning) drivers I see everyday, maybe driverless cars will be safer.

  • Oh for Heaven’s sake – can’t you see that the driverless cars are just a last gasp effort by the automotive/tech industries to create a market! A solution looking for a problem.. We need them like we need a “hole in the head”.
    http://www.dailyimpact.net/2016/07/27/technology-is-now-a-cancer-stage-four-metastasized
    We have become technology obsessed.
    The environmental costs of even creating such vehicles – We are so obsessed by the value of human life (though when war is declared, we blitz each other with a happy disconnect .. ) – get over it! If you can’t drive – then if you need to go somewhere – then use public transport (?what’s that??) or get a friend/colleague/lover/neighbour to drive you. We are soooooooooo coddled. Once upon a time…. we walked.

    • Cooma Doug

      I remember reading an article in the SMH in the 1970s where the idea to have compulsory seat belts was in question. The heading on the item was “we need them like we need a hole in the head”

      • john

        You are so correct Doug as well as being against the horrible idea of having to use a set belt the auto industry were against the idea of having to put in collapsible steering columns as well as every other advance that would make the worst consumer item every sold in any way a safe item.
        Mercedes Benz gave the auto industry their Intellectual Property rights to the progressively collapsible vehicle survival enclosure before air bags were thought of.
        To in any way think the auto industry has been proactive in the safety aspects of the article they sell is to overly optimistic.

        • Fine – you completely missed the point of my comment – 1) you can’t retrofit self-driving capabilities into vehicles – it’s a totally different technology. 2) in a resource constrained future (yes, like AGW, it’s another of the ‘horsemen’) why do we need to discard vehicles – to be replaced by new ones (which cost a lot energy wise to create, 3) we become obsessed by human safety – and it’s a thoroughly hypocritical obsession. 4) the more complex devices become, the more disastrous (and unrepairable) even simple failures are – and that’s not just restricted to automobiles!. Enough said.

          • A Wall

            I think you have a point Hugh, but I think driverless cars look a lot like public transport and give an opportunity to implement a dynamic (no timetable), small-vehicle autonomous bus service. I reckon we could reduce the number of motor vehicles by 90%, and have better service at lower cost.
            I’ve written more about this idea here:
            http://guesstimatedapproximations.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/public-transport-in-age-of-smartphone.html

            Also, as a cyclist, I’d be vastly more comfortable sharing the road with robots than human drivers! 😉
            Cheers, Angus

          • Henry

            I agree with you Hugh. Seems our everyday items are becoming more complex with each passing day. Our phones now “crash” like computers and these cars will do the same. I look forward to “walking” past row after row of stranded self-driving cars that have come across operating system issues that are awaiting a patch to fix…

          • NewOrderGuy

            Get out of my lawn you, you…..

            The old man screaming.

    • blackbean

      Come on Donald, I know it’s you. Smart screen name nonetheless 😉

      So you don’t care about the 1+ million people who gets killed in auto accidents every year due to human error?

      The automotive industry trying to force this upon us???? Conspiracy much?

      And as for being coddled. People who lived 50 years before you were born would consider you a spoiled little brat. Don’t act so tough. It’s called efficiency. That’s what it’s all about. Everything, every day is about gaining efficiency. That’s how we’ll use LESS energy, or produce more with the same amount of energy. Autonomous cars will cause less accidents, less traffic jams and less idle resources. Cars will be used 5 or 10 or 20 hours a day instead of being parked 23 hours a day. That’s GOOD for the environment.

      it seems that people learn nothing. The way you think and behave is exactly how people have always behaved when confronted with something new.

      • Huh? WTF is Donald? If it looks like a duck, quacks line a duck, it is not necessarily Donald. Anyway your comments reveal an amazing lack of understanding about where our future is headed – and the constraints which are going to throw our obsessive reliance on technology in the Sin-Bin. We call such people “HOT” – Hope, Optimism, Technology. Well you better start doing something about AGW, resource scarcity, diminishing fossil fuel availability .. I live with solar PV – and I am very aware of the constraints. Oh, and population growth..
        http://www.dailyimpact.net/2016/07/27/technology-is-now-a-cancer-stage-four-metastasized/#comment-8779
        Have a nice day…

      • MaxG

        Quite frankly: I do not care about whatever number gets killed in road accidents. It is called risk. IF you do not want to be killed in a road accident then don’t drive, and don’t try to blame somebody else.

    • NewOrderGuy

      Yes, once upon a time we used horses. I guess you want your horse back.

  • Craig Allen

    Hmmm, I wonder how soon they’ll be able to cope with emus, roos, potholes, unsealed dirt roads and fallen trees.

  • tsport100

    Argumentum ad nauseam

  • JohnM

    Watching dash-cam crash vids can be a huge waste of time, but total stupidity is almost always the cause….

  • Smurf1976

    There might be some on the roads in 2030 and they might even be common.

    But all cars on the road in 2030 to be driverless? Only if it’s a very easily retrofitted technology since about 30% of the cars we’ll have on the roads in that year have already been built, almost all of them using conventional petrol or diesel engines.

    Even if literally every car built from 2020 onward were driverless, and I seriously doubt that will happen, it’s still only 50% of the cars that will be on the roads in 2030 since the average lifespan of a car is about 20 years (and a small % last a lot longer than that).

  • MaxG

    I was just thinking: who pays the speeding ticket — I didn’t do it; I was asleep in the back :))

  • disqussion2

    One reason why Telstra is at the forefront of calling for everything to be ‘smart’, as part of its Internet of Things plans, is because of the unprecedented opportunity to on-sell our private data to third parties. Like ‘smart’ meters, autonomous cars will be a treasure trove of valuable data for corporations. Just don’t get your hopes up that you will be safe from hacking – not a pleasant thought when you’re heading down the motorway at 110. And when humanity finally wakes up from its zombified ‘smart’ technology-obssessed trance, let’s hope that we have stopped short of handing over our sovereignty to armed robots and drones, and AI computers.