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The benefits and challenges

Connected and Automated Vehicles Plan

The benefits and challenges

CAVs are exciting technologies that could help us address current and future challenges around the safe and efficient movement of people and freight, improve transport services and experiences for customers, and achieve better outcomes for society and places.

Safety is expected to be a major area of benefit of CAVs, which could also help us make better use of our road networks to reduce congestion and improve customer journeys, as well as support a range of wider benefits for the NSW economy and community.

Nevertheless, how CAVs will evolve and the impacts they will have, is still unclear. As explained below, these benefits are not assured and realising them depends on a concerted effort across governments at all levels, together with industry, researchers and the wider community. This CAV Plan sets out actions that NSW is taking to maximise the benefits and get the right outcomes.

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Someone is killed or hospitalised every 41 minutes because of a crash on NSW roads. In 2017, 392 people were killed, and more than 12,000 suffered serious injuries on NSW roads.12 CAV technologies are already improving road safety and have the potential to significantly reduce our road trauma. Automated emergency braking technology could deliver a 38 per cent reduction in rear-end crashes, while fleet-wide use of blind spot detection, lane departure warning and forward collision warning could prevent or reduce the severity of 24 per cent of all crashes.13

As technology advances, CAVs are likely to further reduce or even eliminate driver error and risky behaviour altogether – a factor in around 90 per cent of road crashes – saving lives, reducing injuries and easing the burden on health services.14

However, CAVs alone are unlikely to remove all risks to road safety. In the short to medium-term, there will be challenges to managing the complex interactions between automated vehicles, human-driven vehicles and other road users, in a mixed fleet environment. Until the technology becomes more sophisticated, CAVs will have to navigate through situations that will be complex and difficult to diagnose – for instance, pedestrians crossing the road without looking or drunk drivers.

CAVs may also introduce new risks, such as potential over-reliance on vehicle technology, and growing cybersecurity threats, that will need to be carefully managed. We know from recent overseas incidents involving automated vehicles, a strong safety assurance framework is not only important but is the core of NSW’s approach to trials.

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Traffic flow and congestion

At this stage, the impact that CAVs will have on congestion is unclear. For example, CAVs are likely to allow vehicles to travel closer together, behave cooperatively and avoid incidents that often disrupt traffic flow – delivering faster and more reliable journeys to customers. CAVs could therefore reduce freeway congestion by 15-60 per cent and arterial road congestion by 5-15 per cent, depending on how many people make use of the technology.15

However, research from the Australian Government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) suggests that the effect of a fully automated vehicle fleet on congestion is highly variable, and congestion could get much worse due to increased vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT).16 Changes in total VKT combined with expected changes in road capacity and efficiency determine travel time and congestion outcomes.

The type of use or operating model for CAVs will ultimately determine the way these vehicles affect congestion. As with the ‘My car is still king’ scenario, predominantly single-occupant CAV use could contribute to congestion if it lowers travel costs and increases acceptance of longer journey times because the occupant is able to use their time in other ways en-route. This, therefore, may encourage use of private cars over more efficient public and on-demand transport services.

CAVs may also behave more cautiously than human drivers, improving safety but slowing down traffic flow, and even travel empty on some trips, which is why we will need to proactively manage the potential adverse impacts of CAVs on traffic flows and congestion.

However, new shared mobility services such as NSW’s On-demand public transport trials are exploring a more flexible approach to delivering services when and where people need them, and by improving connectivity to the public transport network. If CAVs are used in this way in the future, then they will make more efficient use of road space and meet customer needs, and we expect to see reduced impacts on congestion and the amenity of places.

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CAVs would improve productivity for businesses and industry by making long-distance and last-mile freight more efficient. They would improve worker productivity if people are able to carry out work-related tasks while commuting, e.g. making phone calls, video conferencing, emailing and reading documents, as is possible on public transport. They could also reduce demand for parking, opening up valuable urban space for more productive uses.

A recent study estimates that when the autonomous truck market in Europe matures, the total cost savings could reach 30 to 35 per cent over the lifetime of each truck.17 McKinsey estimates that the costs of parcel deliveries could reduce by up to 50 per cent through automated last-mile deliveries.18 CAVs have the potential to disrupt some transport industries, but also offer opportunities to create new business development, investment and employment opportunities in a range of transport and non-transport sectors.

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Access and mobility

CAVs have the potential to significantly lower the cost of transport – full automation could make travel 54 per cent cheaper for a single user, and 68 per cent cheaper if they share a ride.19 CAVs could support a range of more personalised, convenient and affordable transport services, and extend the reach of public transport through better last-mile connections to home, work and other activities. This could also improve mobility and social inclusion for people who may find it difficult to access transport today, including older people and people with a disability.

However, care is needed to ensure that the cost and usability of technology and the physical and digital infrastructure needs do not delay the benefits for communities, particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds and those living in regional and remote areas.

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CAVs will generate large volumes of data – such as on vehicle location, diagnostics, traffic, road condition, crashes and travel patterns. This means customers can benefit from rich, timely and context-specific information about routing, disruption and hazards, as well as providing benefits to road operators, enforcement authorities, fleet managers and service providers.

But making the most of this means finding ways to integrate and share large volumes of complex data while protecting personal data and privacy, and managing security risks. Digital infrastructure will also need to be ready to support the growing volume of data and communications flowing between vehicles, infrastructure and other connected devices.

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CAVs may reduce energy consumption and emissions by up to 45 per cent through more efficient driving – including smoother braking and acceleration.20 CAVs will also increasingly be powered by electricity, producing cleaner and quieter trips, and more liveable and attractive environments. CAVs may create opportunities to operate transport services more cheaply and allow services to extend into more locations and for more operating hours.

However, energy consumption could rise by up to 70 per cent if people travel more in CAVs.21 The impact of increased electric vehicle charging on environmental sustainability depends on the energy source and user charging behaviour. Yet it also results in less CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions than equivalent petrol or diesel vehicles.22

The environmental, sustainability and public health benefits of CAVs are more likely to be realised if they are part of an integrated transport offering that includes accessible public transport and strong support for active travel (walking and cycling). This integrated approach will mitigate the risk of CAVs having adverse implications for congestion or public health.

Six principles for Future Transport

The Future Transport 2056 Strategy is focused on six key principles for the future of mobility in the state, which together aim to positively impact the economy, communities and environment of NSW.

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