Wagga could soon see driverless cars with the state government planning to expand trials to regional areas.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey opened expressions of interest for regional trials late last week alongside Wagga MPs Daryl Maguire and Wes Fang.
“Today, we drive our cars but the reality is in the future our cars will drive us,” Mr Maguire said.
I think we will start seeing driverless vehicles in the Riverina within the next couple of years.Malcolm Gregory
“We’re not there yet, but we need prepare for this change. We want to hear from the leaders in technology, industry innovators, councils, universities and community transport operators to explore this exciting area of technology.”
The state’s first driverless trial began in August at Sydney Olympic Park and at the time the NRMA predicted fully autonomous cars would be operating by 2025.
However, Wagga futurist Malcolm Gregory believed the future could arrive before the end of the decade.
“I think we will start seeing driverless vehicles in the Riverina within the next couple of years,” Mr Gregory said.
“Uber just ordered 24,000 driverless cars from Volvo, this is a big trend globally.”
The rise of driverless cars is seen as an evolution of advances like traction control and anti-lock brakes – technology that automates tasks to improve safety – which was important, according to the Roads Minister, as 94 per cent of road accidents were due to human error.
“Automated vehicles remove the human element of driving, which will help bring the road toll down towards zero,” Mrs Pavey said.
“Country people account for only one third of the state’s population but tragically two thirds of all fatalities in NSW occur in country areas.”
Mr Gregory said while truckies and taxi drivers could find themselves out of a job within the next decade, the improvements in safety were a strong motivation to embracing the technology.
“We already eliminate human error where we can with military and mining (automated vehicles),” Mr Gregory said.
“There’s a strong social motivation underpinning this. But I don’t see those people will be completely out of a job, technology generally creates jobs we’d never conceived of.”