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National Transport Commission Australia looks at four possible year 2040 mobility scenarios

Continuing its work to address transformational change in Australian transport (previous reports here and here), the National Transport Commission in Australia released a strategic analysis report called Land Transport Regulation 2040. It identifies a number of plausible scenarios Australia could face over the course of the next two decades, as next-generation mobility options, such as automated vehicles, ride-sharing and other ‘on demand’ transport services transform the country’s transport sector.

Four drivers of change, Consumer demand, Shared mobility, Automation and Data availability and sharing were used to develop the scenarios, with the level of uptake for each classed as ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ depending on the scenario.

Chief Executive of the NTC Paul Retter said, “For sensible reasons Australia’s road transport laws were drafted in a prescriptive way. But we need to think about whether this is the right approach for the future. Prescriptive laws can take time to update as every new transport product and every new technology is rolled out. Given the likelihood of significant changes in technology, market structures and consumer demand for transport services over the next two decades, we need to make our road transport laws more resilient and more responsive.”

Scenario 1 - Long live the free market (Market-driven)

Consumer demand: High; Automation: High; Shared mobility: Low; Data availability and sharing: High

In this scenario, rising privately owned automated vehicles have resulted in increase in overall travel time and traffic congestion. There is little shared mobility. Access to transport, and access to employment, education and services through transport is less equitable. Available modes are not always available or cost effective for those outside of population centres or for those with special needs. But companies have focused on making their customers safer and road accidents have gone down.

Here, governments are focusing on improving efficiency of existing networks and adding capacity to high priority transit services and roads. They are able to better target services and infrastructure where it is most needed, due to better data. Automated buses and trains reduce the cost per trip for public transport, and smaller, on-call vehicles help meet the need in lower density areas. Scheduled services are replaced by either on-demand services or rapid mass transit zones.

Regulator adopt a risk-based approach. Simple rules apply for passengers and other road users through to management systems for higher risk activities. A light touch, modal-specific approach encourages innovation with a strong focus on safety.

Scenario 2- Slow and steady wins the race (The middle path)

Consumer demand: Medium; Automation: Medium; Shared mobility: Medium; Data availability and sharing: Medium to low

he desire for innovations is counteracted by concerns over social and economic impacts of automation. Travellers share rides incentivised by transport congestion and the rising cost of private vehicle ownership. Governments support further increases car and ride sharing. Rail and bus service and infrastructure investment complement private vehicle sharing.

Rigorous data and privacy protections and safety assurance encourages the development of new technology and systems. Using the existing regulatory system, government acts at the request of industry and the community to moderate the pace of change and ensure the transport system remains both safe and fair.

Scenario 3 - Going off-line (Stability instead of innovation)

Consumer demand: Low; Automation: Low; Shared mobility: Low; Data availability and sharing: Not available

Consumers prioritise stability, familiarity and privacy and do not trust new life-saving and efficiency-enhancing technologies. Consumers are sharing transport with one another outside of formal channels and digital marketplaces, decreasing government visibility over some activity.

Congestion is high and worst in urban areas. Rail remains the core of mass transit. Like in the first scenario, fairness decreases, though for different reasons. Here it is because cost of mobility goes up in the absence of innovations.

Regulation takes the form of a strong, guiding hand. Trust is built on clear accountabilities, standards and demonstration of compliance with strong government oversight and control.

Scenario 4 -  A new way of thinking

Consumer demand: High; Automation: High; Shared mobility: Extremely high; Data availability and sharing: High

Consumers want on demand mobility. Shared automation is the norm and private ownership is low. Highly secure, linked data systems underpin everything.

Regulatory challenges include supporting sharing, maintaining equity by ensuring mobility and access levels in regional and remote areas and dealing with rapid pace of change and legacy issues in systems and infrastructure.

Clear outcomes are described in regulations, which apply across modes and support safety, productivity, interoperability, privacy and equity.

Safety technologies and regulations have reduced road accident tolls. There is high utilisation of shared, automated road vehicles and trains reduce the cost per trip for passengers. Fleets of shared autonomous vehicles offer the opportunity to reclaim urban space that is no longer needed for car parking.

Read the complete report here.

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