Future Mobility

Emerging technologies will continue to evolve and to change customer trends in ways that are difficult to predict. With technology becoming integral in transport planning, we need to be nimble, and plan for a wider range of options.

This chapter considers opportunities and challenges posed by a number of technology developments and how these could change customer mobility, and the capabilities of transport providers:

  • Technology-enabled mobility
  • World-class mass transit for our customers
  • More service possibilities with connected and automated vehicles (CAVs)
  • New personalised devices for short trips
  • Using drones to support the future transport task

Transport powered with alternative fuels

Technology enabled mobility

Technology brings new service possibilities and government has a role as an ‘enabler’

Raising customer standards through technology

Mobility is increasingly technology-led, where data sharing and smartphone apps are enabling more flexible models to develop by matching customer demand with services. Mobile technology is also improving the customer interface, by providing a single platform for trip planning, payment and service information.

The rise of ridesharing in NSW is an example of how service models have been disrupted by technology through advances in GPS navigation devices, smartphones and networks that can coordinate drivers, customers and payment systems.

As the speed of innovation increases, so has the unpredictability of technology adoption. However, predictions can vary wildly. For example, by 2036, estimates of the take up of driverless vehicles range from 30 per cent to 100 per cent of total vehicles.

This uncertainty has implications for planning.

While customers – and markets – ultimately determine whether a technology is widely used, governments play a key role in enabling the use of new technology, through regulation, service provision, and collaboration with customers, the private sector and the research and design community.

An important step in automated vehicle technology was the NSW Government passing legislation in 2017 to enable the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight to approve trials of automated vehicles. This gives us an opportunity to properly assess these vehicles’ ability to meet our policy outcomes of improving safety, boosting service frequencies and reducing congestion.

Transport Legislation Amendment (Automated Vehicle Trials and Automation) ACT 2017

  • Automated vehicles cannot be used on NSW roads as vehicle standards and driver laws require a steering wheel and a driver.
  • Under the Act, the Minister can approve applications to conduct trials of automated vehicles by order which specifies the trial area and roads used, the time period of the trial and any other necessary conditions.
  • The Act also sets out insurance and vehicle supervision requirements and contains penalties for improper vehicle use or interference. 

World-class mass transit for our customers

Automation makes the emergence of more responsive, capable, ‘smart’ systems possible

Automated metro systems around the world will double by 2020

Customers can already use apps to receive information in real time and plan their trips. They can also use electronic ticketing via the Opal card, which provides a seamless journey across transport modes in areas covered by Opal.

While the network will continue to require employees to physically manage and attend systems and deliver customer services, greater automation will deliver safety benefits by reducing the risk of human error and using computerised failure detection and response systems. Automated systems also offer more predictable running times and energy optimisation.

The Sydney Metro will be Australia’s first fully-automated rail network, reflecting global trends. China will soon deliver two new automated systems and several European cities are planning to convert existing metro lines.

Automated metro rail - global total (1980-2025 forecast) ('000 km)

Figure 26 Increasing automated metro rail projects

Being prepared for new technology

As technology continues to improve and change, we need to be prepared to adapt and respond.

Advances in communications and control systems will create opportunities to further improve capacity on our existing network, an approach expected to be more cost effective than building additional infrastructure.

We need to be in a position to ensure the safe and effective adoption of new technologies, ensuring they contribute to our overall vision for transport.

The NSW Government will investigate the introduction of high capacity services across 210km of the network over the life of this strategy. Many of these will incorporate technology to improve safety, efficiency and productivity.

To improve efficiency and reduce travel times on the road network, we are also investing in “smart motorways” which use complementary technologies to monitor traffic conditions, manage congestion and respond to incidents in real time. An investment of $470 million has been committed to the M4 Smart Motorway project, with a view to rolling out smart networks on all NSW motorways in the future.

In response to growth in automated passenger vehicles, NSW is currently conducting a two year trial of a driverless shuttle bus at Sydney Olympic Park with delivery partners HMI Technologies, NRMA, Telstra and IAE.

Expressions of interest have also been requested to run NSW’s first regional CAV trial. The trial will test emerging technologies in a regional setting and assess the potential for these vehicles to improve road safety outcomes and provide more flexible services for regional communities.

The trials will provide sound evidence to enable Government to consider the associated benefits and risks of CAVs, including the cost of transitioning to automated systems, cybersecurity and upskilling our workforce.

Future directions to investigate

NSW will continue to explore automation as a means to achieve safety and efficiency benefits and service improvements for customers.

  • Enable new and upgraded physical and digital assets to support new technologies and adapt to future developments
  • Identify road infrastructure and furniture required to support automated vehicles
  • Implement intelligent traffic management methods to improve road network efficiency
  • Deliver “smart motorways” on all NSW motorways
  • Support the NSW Innovation Strategy to manage workforce transition as automation increases

More service possibilities with Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs)

Driverless vehicles are the next big game-changer in terms of safety, efficiency and unlocking new service models

Could driverless vehicles help deliver our vision for Future Transport?

CAVs have the potential to provide our customers with a broader range of more flexible travel options, and safer, smoother and faster journeys. If CAVs are predominantly used to run shared services, they could also help reduce congestion and get more people out of their cars by extending the catchment of traditional public transport systems.

A wholly automated vehicle fleet could dramatically improve safety on our network by removing the risk of human error which is estimated to cause 90 per cent of vehicle crashes. Austroads has previously estimated that full deployment of connected vehicles with collision avoidance applications could prevent 25-35 per cent of fatal crashes.[i][1]

The benefits promised by CAVs are highly dependent on the cost and rate of take up, the degree to which they attract users away from public transport, and the ownership models that develop. Future Transport modelling shows that widespread CAV use for private trips could reduce metropolitan public transport use to around 18 per cent. This would have significant negative impacts across the network, with increased traffic volumes, an increase in vehicle kilometres travelled, and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The NSW Government is working with industry partners to undertake testing of technologies, to better understand the risks and benefits and better engage with customers on what these vehicles will mean for the network.

Future directions to investigate

NSW will be proactive and prepare for the emergence of CAVs, and work with the Federal Government and other jurisdictions to develop national standards and road rules.

  • Develop and release the NSW CAV Innovation Action Plan
  • Identify infrastructure enhancements needed to support CAV operations including CAV drop off facilities at railway stations, road signage and high contrast road markings
  • Work with other jurisdictions to identify and implement the digital and physical infrastructure needed to support CAVs
  • Continue working with our CAV Stakeholder Reference Group engaging industry and universities to help us guide and manage the transition to CAVs
  • Conduct passenger and freight CAV trials across NSW testing a series of possible uses, from immediate applications and service trials to investigating longer term uses in challenging operating environments
  • Engage and educate the public on CAVs
  • Identify appropriate policy and regulatory mechanisms to ensure CAVs support our Future Transport customer outcomes

[1] Austroads (2011), Evaluation of the potential safety benefits of collision avoidance technologies through vehicle to vehicle Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) in Australia

In focus: Smart Shuttle Trial – Sydney Olympic Park


Figure 27 Smart Shuttle Trial - Sydney Olympic Park

New personalised devices for short trips

Transforming personal mobility and boosting active transport in centres

By 2056, two-thirds of us will live within 2 km of a centre

Assisted mobility devices, such as e-bikes or motorised scooters, have the potential to move people out of single occupant cars for first mile and last mile trips, freeing up capacity on the roads for people who need to travel further. 

These devices are appealing because they are faster and require less physical effort than walking or cycling and people can use them for longer trips and over more difficult terrain, even with a lower fitness level. The cost of the devices also makes them appealing with upfront and operating costs significantly lower than owning and operating private vehicles. Costs are even further reduced when sharing schemes are available.

E-bikes are one of the most popular types of assisted mobility devices. Australian and international trials and research shows the take up of e-bikes is growing significantly. An e-bike trial conducted in Western Australia showed a decrease from 61 per cent to 32 per cent of participants commuting by car either as a driver or passenger[1]. E-bike sharing at interchanges also has the potential to grow public transport use by better connecting people to the mass transit network.

Other devices such as mobility scooters can enable people with mobility constraints to access public transport and local centres from their homes.

To realise the potential benefit of assisted mobility devices, we need to create an environment where they can be used safely and can help deliver a more efficient network.

[1] RAC e-bike trial, Top line results, December 2015

Figure 28 e-bikes for shorter trips and connecting people to public transport

Future directions to investigate

NSW will enable assisted mobility devices to be used safely on the network to assist with short journeys within centres and to connect people to public transport.

  • Deliver complete cycling networks, pedestrian space and interchanges that safely support a wider range of devices
  • Enable shared use service models in key centres (e.g. E-bike hire)
  • Develop and adopt safety standards for new devices entering the market and review existing regulatory frameworks

Using drones to support future transport

Rapid point-to-point services that could transform emergency services and deliveries

Automated aerial mobility could be in use by 2056

Australia’s safety laws for drones currently depend on whether the operator is flying commercially or recreationally, with recreational and very small commercial operations generally exempt as long as they pose no risk or hazard to the public, property or another aircraft.

If the use of drones expands to include routine freight delivery and point to point transport for people, standardised regulations and access arrangements will need to be implemented to ensure safe operations. Investments in infrastructure to support drone use would also be needed.

Amazon has already proposed how airspace could be segregated to ensure safe and efficient drone use. In this model, the area between 200 and 400 feet is reserved as a “drone highway” where drones operate autonomously and are equipped with “sense and avoid” technologies that allow them to dodge other vehicles and potential hazards like birds and tall buildings.

If properly introduced, drones could be used for last mile freight delivery as well as the surveillance and rapid deployment of emergency personnel, maintenance crews or equipment.

There are a number of issues that would need to be resolved if drones or other aerial mobility devices were to be used more widely, including safety, noise impacts and landing infrastructure.

Future directions to investigate

The NSW Government will develop and review policies around the management of airspace and air safety to enable a potential future of aerial mobility.

  • Work with the Federal Government and other jurisdictions on a national regulatory response around air space, safety and aircraft standards
  • Investigate the role drones may play in first and last mile freight delivery and emergency response transport

Investigate future land use options for aircraft take-off and landing infrastructure in line with the National Airports Safeguarding Framework

Figure 29 Amazon's proposal for segregated airspace below 500ft for the operation of drones (Forbes Magazine, July 2015)

Transport powered by alternative fuels

Early signs point to the beginning of a transition away from internal combustion engines

Alternative fuels will benefit the environment, improve energy security and reduce costs

Alternative fuels have several benefits, including:

  • Lower costs for users – running costs are one third to one quarter of traditional vehicles (although up-front costs are currently higher)
  • Reduced air pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to internal combustion engine vehicles
  • Health benefits from air quality improvements
  • Reduced noise from vehicle operations (particularly buses), which improves the amenity and liveability of places
  • Improved energy security through reduced reliance on non-renewable imported fuels

Electric vehicles are a wide class that includes hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and solar powered vehicles.

Electric vehicles can currently cost around $15,000 more than a comparable car with an internal combustion engine which impacts the rate of take up. However, with improving battery functionality and falling battery prices, some manufacturers are now pricing hybrids at the same level as petrol vehicles to encourage take-up and create a market. Stockholm Environment Institute researchers expect cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles will be reached when batteries cost $150 US per kWh. This could be achieved by 2025.

NSW is already paving the way for more fuel efficient vehicles through:

  • Supporting the Federal Government’s proposal for more stringent standards for fuel efficiency, vehicle emissions and fuel quality for light vehicles
  • Trialling the State’s first automated, electric passenger shuttle at Sydney Olympic Park in partnership with industry
  • Providing a lower rate of motor vehicle tax for hybrid and electric vehicles in line with the Commonwealth’s Green Vehicle Guide
  • Recommending that ‘conveniently located charging stations’ be included into apartment designs under the Department of Planning and Environment’s Apartment Design Guide

Future directions to investigate

NSW supports an industry-led response to the development and take up of electric vehicles and alternative fuels.

  • Investigate the opportunities and challenges of electric vehicle use in NSW
  • Deliver an Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Plan that outlines NSW Government actions to facilitate the take up of low emission, fuel efficient vehicles and maximise their benefits for passenger and freight mobility, productivity and liveable communities

Figure 30 Affordability of Electric Vehicles (EVs), Interpreted from data sources Toyota; caranddriver.com, Mitsubishi; BMW; Cars Guide; motoring.com.au