Driverless-Cars Buckle up for big driving revolution, April 03, 2017, By Rita Excell

DRIVERLESS vehicles are arguably the biggest thing since we traded the horse and cart in favour of the motor vehicle.

Yes, there are naysayers, but the technology is coming — quickly.

In recent months we have seen the spotlight on safety, security and the ethical concerns about how these vehicles are programmed.

There is also concern about the job losses that will occur.

While these concerns are valid, we can’t lose sight of the significant societal benefits to be gained by the introduction of driverless vehicles.

Driverless cars are on their way — and any driver can spot this technology already in the cars around us.

We have alerts when a vehicle is leaving a lane, or if something is alongside us. Technology allows a car to park itself, and auto braking technology takes action when a collision is imminent.

Not science fiction, but science fact.

While there may be some job losses, there are also strong job creation opportunities too.

Remember that in the 1980s there wasn’t any internet, mobile phones or computers, and yet today thousands of people work in roles that didn’t exist only a few decades ago.

As technology develops we will continue to see new jobs created, with as many as 16,000 employment opportunities across the nation.

One of the major benefits yet to enjoy the limelight is the fact that those who are vision impaired, ageing, living with a disability, or have some type of medical condition that prevents them from owning a driver’s licence, will enjoy an exciting era of mobility.

That’s great news for the one-in-five Australians living with disability — around 4.3 million people stand to potentially experience a greater level of freedom.

Just like many Australians, the team at the Australia and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) have families and friends who can realise significant life-changing opportunities.

ADVI is working with key interest groups to make sure that people living with a range of disabilities are part of the planning and development of automated technology and regulation in Australia.

Imagine a life where people can rely far less on carers, family and public transport to get around.

Driverless vehicles will provide travel to work and play, and allow people to explore locations not currently serviced by public transport.

For those who do drive, trying to locate a disabled parking option or contend with finding a vacant and convenient spot to stop becomes a thing of the past because they can arrive outside a location of choice and let the vehicle park itself elsewhere.

A recent survey commissioned by ADVI found that 82 per cent of people recognise that the greatest benefit from self-driving vehicles is mobility for people with driving impairments or restrictions.

That’s great news for the many who have shared stories about how they have never operated a vehicle, or have lost their ability to drive over time, and now feel isolated from family, friends and the community.

The biggest change to the motor vehicle is here. It is the oncoming headlights, and the next 5-10 years will see the transition to driverless vehicles across Australia.

Now is the time to embrace this exciting journey and reap the many safety, productivity and mobility rewards on offer.

The sky is not falling. Australia’s love affair with the motor vehicle isn’t any less intense. In fact, it is now more important than ever before.

Rita Excell is executive director of the Australia and NZ Driverless Vehicle Initiative.