Oz could be key player in driverless cars

Key stakeholders and thinkers around autonomous vehicles have met in Sydney to discuss the future of driverless vehicles.

Former US transport secretary Rodney Slater says Australia could be at the "forefront" of driverless car technology given remote-controlled vehicles have long been used in the mining industry.

Experts in autonomous cars gathered in Sydney on Tuesday for a roundtable discussion on the future of road transportation.

Mr Slater believes balancing innovation and safety is the key to ensuring that future is more like heaven than hell.

"I would say Australia could be among those at the forefront," the former secretary told AAP.

Pointing to remote-controlled vehicles used in Australia's mining industry, Mr Slater said the country was making significant strides in the right direction towards automation.

"You've got these huge vehicles being guided by individuals who are not in the driver's seat - we can learn a lot from Australia and your companies."

Some 94 per cent of car accidents are caused by human error so driverless cars could greatly reduce road deaths.

Automation should also increase mobility for disabled people and the elderly, ease road congestion and potentially cut costs.

Mr Slater was joined in Sydney by key stakeholders including NRMA chairman Kyle Loades and Squire Patton Boggs Australia managing partner John Poulsen.

Mr Loades said driverless cars were expected to hit Australian roads by 2025 so adequate structures and regulations were needed for the transition to be seamless.

But Mr Poulsen said the technology still had some way to go before it could cope with certain challenging scenarios.

"One of the biggest problems with driverless vehicles at the moment is around bicycles," he told AAP.

"The technology can't recognise this very strange beast because one minute it's riding along at 40 kilometres an hour then, suddenly, it slows down and the rider can walk."

Source AAP

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