Self-drive cars on the horizon

Shane Wright
Self-drive cars on the horizon

Perth would be home to the nation’s first trial of self-drive vehicles under a plan from the RAC.

As part of a plea for $300 million to make roads more intelligent, the RAC believes the Federal Government should sink cash into a trial of autonomous vehicles that are smart enough to know when to brake or move safely into another lane.

Google is already building a car that has no steering wheel, building on vehicles it has driven for thousands of kilometres across the US effectively controlled by a series of sensors and computers.

Some of the world’s biggest car builders are looking to bring to the buying public self-drive cars over the next two to three years.

Anne Still, the RAC’s policy and research senior manger, said with so much effort going into the creation of self-drive cars it was vital that Australia — and WA — was not left behind.

“WA has the highest fatality rate of any State in the country and so we want to be at the forefront of technology that could reduce that and save lives,” she said.

“The technology should enable us to reduce congestion on our roads. There’s even the possibility for people to share vehicles.”

A first step the RAC would like to see so-called intelligent transport systems introduced to the Tonkin, Kwinana, Roe and Mitchell freeways. This would include variable speed limits to parts of the road network that become congested as well as ramp signals for freeway on and off-ramps.

Ms Still said as self-drive cars needed a flawless communications system, a move to more intelligent roads now would put WA in a strong position to test the driverless vehicles ahead of other parts of the country.

The $300 million RAC is looking for from Canberra would be on top of a string of other projects that the organisation believes WA needs to improve its overall transport system.

It believes the $2 billion Perth light rail project, now sidelined, is the State’s most important project.