Transport technology: act now

Autonomous connected-cars

Australia has the opportunity to be a leader in the global shift to clean, safe, efficient transport using low and zero-emission vehicles (LEV), connected autonomous vehicles (CAV), high-frequency mass transit and intelligent transport systems.
That’s the conclusion of the report Shifting Gears: Preparing for a Transport Revolution, by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. A four-page summary can be accessed here and a video here.
The report, which identifies three key challenges for the transport sector – lower emissions, health, and efficient movement of people and freight – provides a blueprint for transport planning to 2030 for an incoming Federal Government.
Recommendations include the need to encourage rapid and widespread uptake of LEV, including electric cars.
To make the shift, the report recommends:

  • A national target to drive the uptake of LEV in Australia.
  • Incentives to use LEV as fleet vehicles.
  • Industry to lead the way in the uptake of LEV by ensuring that vehicles imported into Australia meet stringent standards for emissions, set by government.

The report also highlights the value of CAV, which can range from cars with partial automation through to fully automated vehicles that communicate with each other through the mobile network, and recommends the expansion of mobile coverage across the entire road network.

The authors

The investigation into the transport industry’s technology readiness was chaired by two Academy Fellows, Kathryn Fagg FTSE and Drew Clarke AO PSM FTSE.
Ms Fagg said: “The rapid advance of digital technologies across all sectors of the global economy has resulted in an extraordinary period of change.
“With Australia’s geographic isolation and long distances between urban centres, the transport sector will be both significantly disrupted and revolutionised by this technological transformation.
“Failure to be prepared will risk a decline in many aspects of our Australian way of life and society, including increased congestion and vehicle-related emissions, a deterioration in health, safety and security, and a negative impact on the cost of living, productivity and the ease of mobility.
“Australia is performing well on a number of readiness indicators and is well place to capitalise on the coming technology revolution, but we need to make smart, strategic decisions to keep pace with the technological frontier.”
Mr Clarke said: “The Academy has identified sustainability and climate change, productivity, and health as the three key challenges that will need to be addressed within the transport sector over the next decade.
“Specifically, the transport sector will need to lower emissions, improve the efficient movement of people and freight, and reduce transport-related deaths and serious injuries.
“The deployment of connected autonomous vehicles, low and zero-emission vehicles, high-frequency mass transport and intelligent transport systems are potential solutions to these challenges.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • Governments to set nationally consistent standards to support. productivity-enhancing technology, including for charging infrastructure and connections, data sharing and data privacy.
  • Competitive grants programs that encourage the trial of transport technologies that can be adapted to Australia’s unique geographical or climatic conditions.
  • Integrated land use and transportation planning to take into account likely network use changes from new technologies.
  • Strengthened teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in primary and secondary schools, to support the workforce of the future.
  • University and VET courses to be developed in collaboration with industry, to ensure the relevant skills are available.
  • The report also provides a roadmap for future research to address the challenges the transport sector will face in the decade to come. Research priorities include:
    • Impact of LEVs on the grid and emissions
    • What technologies should Australia adopt early, and why?
    • What are the skills requirements of the future workforce?

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering is undertaking a major three-year (2018-2020) Australian Research Council Learned Academies Special Projects-funded research project to examine the readiness of different Australian industry sectors to develop, adapt and adopt new and emerging technologies, with a horizon out to 2030. The transport sector is the first industry sector to be examined by the project.

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