Driverless cars to brew more traffic snarls, Aussie survey shows

Everyone’s excited about driverless cars, but few potential Australian owners of the technology appear willing to let someone else use them

Driverless cars to brew more traffic snarls, Aussie study shows

AUSSIE motorists, it appears, are a selfish pack of mongrels, and when it comes to sharing our autonomous cars, many of us are just going to park them up in the garage.

The University of Sydney has released a study that hints that, rather than freeing up our congested city streets, a potential lack of ride-sharing could result in self-driving cars making things worse.

The University of Sydney Business School’s latest Transport Opinion Survey, released today, found one in four survey participants said they would buy a self-driving car for family use if one was available. However, that keenness wasn’t shared when it came to leasing their vehicles to other travellers when it was not in use, with only a third saying they would be willing to let others use their vehicle.

As well, 40 percent of the survey’s participants said that they would probably use their cars more as travelling became easier, while more than 30 percent said they would use their car rather than use some form of public transport.

The university’s Institute of Transport and Logistic Studies director, David Hensher, said the survey suggested Australia’s roads would become more congested as robot cars evolved, and public transport services would “deteriorate”.

“The survey suggests a strong uptake which is encouraging at this stage in the debate on the future of driverless vehicles; however the real challenge is getting society to become more sharing either by allowing others to use their cars or through a third party mobility plan.” Hensher said.

“Pundits promoting the virtues of driver-less cars, were suggesting that they would contribute to a significant reduction in traffic congestion. Our findings appear contrary to that view.”

He said the survey’s results indicated Australia would need to manage the negative impacts of driverless cars, including weighing up if governments should charge people extra for using private cars.

Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies research fellow Chinh Ho told Wheels many people and car makers were getting excited about autonomous vehicles, but we didn’t yet have any hard evidence they would improve our roads.

“If we allow AVs (autonomous vehicles) to be owned privately, the survey shows we can expect lots of people won’t be sharing them,” Ho said. “That is something we have learned from the way people behave when they have a conventional car.

“These cars are being used for private access and very few of us are thinking about how we will be sharing the vehicle with our neighbours.”

The university’s next biannual study will look at what would make people willing to share their self-driving vehicles.


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