Following a five month inquiry into automated land-based mass transit, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities released its Innovating Transport Across Australia Report in March that in essence recommends the Government needs to lead the transport revolution. The purpose of the inquiry was to report on current and future developments in the use of automation in land based mass transit, including the role and responsibility of the Australian Government in developing suitable technology.
Major players in the connected and autonomous vehicle industry made submissions to the inquiry and the key themes raised in the submissions included:
- the importance of a nationally consistent legal and regulatory framework;
- ensuring the laws and regulatory framework allows for the safe deployment of technologies that are required for the automated land-based mass transit; and
- equipping Australian infrastructure to accommodate new automated and electric vehicle technologies.
The Committee sees the automation and electrifications of mass transit as having the potential to make Australian cities and regions cleaner, greener, more accessible and more liveable. Committee Chair John Alexander says achieving this outcome will require Australian Government’s leadership and vision.
5 key recommendations from the report:
- Support the development of a new automated transport ecosystem
One of the biggest challenges for automated mass transit is the problem of the first and last mile – the gap between the mass transit services and the passengers’ home or destination. An automated transport ecosystem is envisioned to involve autonomous rail, light rail and buses providing for the high volume routes, which are then connected with smaller vehicles like shuttle buses or driverless cars that can provide connectivity to the passengers’ first and last mile. The development toward a new automated transport ecosystem requires a collaborative effort from the Australian, State and Territory Governments to introduce adequate policies and regulations that support such an ecosystem.
- Developing a national hydrogen strategy
The Committee supports the development of a national hydrogen strategy. The Australian Government Chief Scientist proposed a national hydrogen strategy in December last year to capitalise the emerging economic prospects of hydrogen as an energy source. The Committee sees hydrogen based technologies playing a significant role in the future of Australian land transport however, hydrogen power brings its own infrastructure demands and the challenge is to identify the optimum pathway. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work collaboratively with the State and Territory Governments to develop a national hydrogen strategy that provides for the manufacture and transport of hydrogen in a safe, cost effective and energy efficient way.
- Facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles
The Committee recommends the Australian Government to increase its uptake of electric vehicles, both Battery Electric Vehicles and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles. Electrification of transport has real potential to lower costs, reduce the environmental impact of land transport and enhance national fuel security. To ensure the electric vehicles are successfully introduced to Australia, the Government is encouraged to develop appropriate infrastructure required for the deployment of electric vehicles, ensure refueling and recharging technology are compatible with defined standards and promote greater coordination between the transport and energy sectors.
- Undertake research to estimate the national requirement for electricity generation under an electric and automated transport future
The Committee recommends the Australian Government to estimate the national requirement for electricity generation if Australia moves to an electric and automated transport future. This ought to be done with a view to ensure that the electricity generation will meet the anticipated demand, whilst also being environmentally friendly. Namely, the Committee recommends that the Government adheres to the national greenhouse gas abatement targets, when meeting the national electricity needs.
- Establishing statutory offices and expanding the role of current statutory bodies to facilitate the automated land-based mass transit future.
The report highlights the need to rethink the current operation of statutory bodies to enable them to play a more productive and significant role in enabling automated land-based mass transit.
The Committee specifically recommends the establishment of the statutory Office of a National Chief Engineer to provide independent expert advice on the planning and development of Australia’s infrastructure. The Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities is recommended to conduct an audit of Australia’s existing transport communications infrastructure and requirements for automation at various stages. The audit is to help develop a national strategy for transport communication infrastructure for full automation of land transport. The Committee is also of the view that given the nexus between automation and electrification of transport, the Office of Future Transport Technology, which sits within the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, to expand to cover alternative energy sources such as battery electric power and hydrogen fuel cell power.