​Driverless cars heading for NSW

Following a test drive in the self-driving Tesla model S car, NSW Minister for Industry, Resources, and Energy Anthony Roberts said he will begin taking steps to bring autonomous cars to the state.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Driverless cars could become the norm for NSW drivers in the next few years.

Autonomous electric cars are the "future of driving" in NSW, Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts said after testing the self-driving Tesla model S car.

Using cameras, radars and sensors, the car is able to navigate at 100-kilometres per hour, change lanes, and automatically steer, accelerate, and brake.

Each car's retail price is around AU$120,000, but Tesla is working on producing a smaller, lower-cost vehicle, as well as building more infrastructure to support battery charging stations.

Roberts said the government would do everything it could to support the new technology, including lobbying to axe the luxury car tax, which applies to electric cars.

"I've fallen in love with this car. Certainly we'll do everything we can in this government to ensure that we roll out more and more," he said after his 10-minute test drive outside Parliament House.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who also took a spin along with Labor MP Penny Sharpe, said the pair finally agreed on an issue.

"I think all sides of politics can see the benefits and get behind this. Once you've experienced the vehicles you realise there's no going back -- they are the future," he said.

Buckingham called on the government to introduce more incentives for electric cars.

"We could consider sharing transit lanes, reducing tolls, providing private parking and infrastructure for electric vehicles ... and reducing some of the charges, potentially stamp duty, registration, and luxury car tax," he said.

"The benefits are enormous."

The trial by the NSW government comes after the South Australian government recently successfully carried out similar testing with two Volvo XC90 vehicles, ahead of their official release in Sweden in 2017.

In conjunction with the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), the South Australian government tested the two vehicles on Adelaide's Southern Expressway. The two cars demonstrated automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and active queue assist.

South Australian Premier Ian Weatherill was a passenger in one of the vehicles and said his experience during the ride was very "smooth".

While the safety of autonomous cars continues to be questioned, Weatherill said sitting in the vehicle provided a "complete controlled and safe environment".

"At any time you can grab control of the car, so it's not as if something goes catastrophically wrong you can't get hold of the car and get back control again; there are lots of redundancies built into the technology to make sure it remains safe," he said.

Weatherill said it is not likely that the use of driverless cars will be practical on every road, but said it would be a suitable fit for roads like the Southern Expressway, and would be an opportunity to improve safety and lower emissions.

"It won't be for everybody and it won't be anything that's going to happen any time soon ... we want to be at the forefront of this paradigm shift towards an industry which is anticipated to be worth more than AU$90 billion globally by 2030," he said.

The trial of the two Volvo vehicles was originally unveiled in July. ARRB Group said at the time that the trials in South Australia will be the first of many trials nationally, with discussions underway with other Australian state governments.

In September, researchers at Deakin University partnered with General Motors (GM) to focus on developing "innovative and competitive" solutions for the future of the automotive market.

Deakin said the centre would develop technology-driven automotive products and that the initial focus of the new centre will be to develop advanced constitutive and failure models, including calibration test procedures, before implementing the models into commercial software.

Earlier this year, Japanese car manufacturer Nissan said it will have road-ready autonomous cars by 2020. Hyundai also said it was pushing for commercial self-driving cars within the next five years, while Ford announced it was moving its autonomous driving technology research plans upward to a full-scale advanced engineering program.

Additionally, New Zealand's Transport Agency announced in August it was commissioning a study of the country's technical readiness for the deployment of automated vehicles, including the state of digital mapping and networks required to enable operation.

With AAP

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