A new inquiry into the use of automation in mass-transit systems around Australia has been announced, as the Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee looks to make public transport "better, stronger and faster" going forward.
The inquiry, which will also investigate the role new fuel sources like hydrogen and electric power can play on road, rail and point-to-point delivery vehicles going forward, is accepting submissions until December 7, 2018.
“International experience of automated metro systems shows what they could do to improve connectivity within our rapidly growing cities,” said John Alexander, committee chair.
“Automation and platooning present real opportunities to make bus networks more reliable and responsive, as well as more efficient, creating real competition between different modes of transport.”
“In addition, new fuel sources—such as electricity and hydrogen power—have the potential to make mass transit cheaper, reduce our carbon footprint, and reduce our reliance on the importation of fossil fuels.”
There have been a number of small trials of short-range automated bus services around Australia, with LaTrobe University in Victoria conducting one of the best-known experiments.
More than 500 students and faculty rode the bus over 12 months, before researchers used their findings to call for greater consideration for autonomous vehicles in infrastructure planning and "continued education and engagement to prepare communities for the arrival of autonomous vehicles".
“The trial demonstrated autonomous buses can and should play an important role in the mobility mix as a complementary service to existing public transport," said David Franks, CEO of Keolis Downer, one of the trial's stakeholders.
“We now have the data to show they can operate safely within complex environments and that there is strong public support for them."
“All levels of Governments and the private sector must work together to ensure we have the right infrastructure and regulatory systems in place to facilitate the deployment of autonomous vehicles and ensure they are integrated into the planning process for transport and urban developments," he added.