Telstra CTO backs autonomous vehicles for public transport

Telstra's CTO Dr Hugh Bradlow says autonomous vehicles are a credible way to address growing public transport challenges

Telstra’s chief technology officer, Dr Hugh Bradlow has called on governments to seriously consider implementing fleets of autonomous vehicles as a means to address public transport issues.

Speaking ahead at the Knowledge Cities World Summit in Melbourne, Bradlow said technology could play a major, albeit disruptive, role in the way cities planned and evolved.

“If you think about Melbourne, we are projected to grow over the next 20 years from 3.5 million to 5 million people and of course everyone is extrapolating that to the number of cars on the road and the number of roads you will need,” he said on ABC television.

“Whereas in fact technology in 20 years is much more likely to generate things like fleets of autonomous vehicles that will give a much more convenient and better utilised public transport system that could actually reduce the number of vehicles on the road.”

According to Bradlow, an application of this technology would likely take the form of a fleet of unmanned taxis as an alternative to a train or bus system.

“Governments are going to have to make choices between ‘do I build a new road’ or ‘whether I invest in new technology which avoids people going onto a road’,” he said.

“It is much more convenient and much more usable to the consumer and much more efficient in terms of the road use.”

Google is already working toward making autonomous vehicles a reality as a means to improve car safety and efficiency as well as free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions.

In a September blog post, Google distinguished software engineer, Sebastian Thrun, wrote that the company’s automated cars had successfully logged more than 140,000 miles worth of travel in trials.

“Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead,” the post reads.

“This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.”

In October, Bradlow, speaking at an Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) roundtable on mobility, warned IT departments against standardising on the iPhone as devices based on Google’s Android operating system were now outselling Apple’s smartphone.

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