ITS Australian Federal Government Roundtable

Speech

DCS010/2017

30 August 2017

E&OE

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

It's a pleasure to have the opportunity to join you here for the Federal Government ITS Australia Roundtable.

I'd like to thank Brian Negus, President of ITS Australia, Susan Harris as Chief Executive and the members of the ITS Australia board for their generous invitation to speak tonight.

I'd like to talk about what the Coalition Government is doing in regards to Intelligent Transport Systems and the need to adapt to the challenges presented by new technology, particularly Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

Securing our productivity and competitive edge is a major driver behind the Government's $75 billion budget commitment in infrastructure funding over 10 years.

This is an unprecedented and historic investment supporting a long-term vision of enhancing transport links and unlocking the potential of our cities and regions to ensure that we not only meet the growing domestic demand for goods and services, but also maintain our global competitiveness.

The Government has a clear commitment to smarter transport systems and technology-enabled infrastructure.

Through its Infrastructure Investment Program, the Government is committed to funding projects that enhance the use of existing infrastructure using smart technologies.

For example, we have directly invested over $430 million since 2013–14 to implement technology-based solutions for a range of ‘smart road’ projects.

This includes:

  • $200 million towards the $250 million widening of the Tullamarine Freeway as part of the overall CityLink Tulla widening project in Melbourne. The project features a fully integrated freeway management system. Once completed around June 2018, this will reduce average travel times for peak hour commuters by up to 15 minutes.
  • $17.4 million towards the $34.8 million Stage 1 National Smart Managed Motorways project between the Gateway Motorway and Caboolture in Brisbane. This was completed in late 2015. Smart ramp signals and sensors at the Bruce Highway aim to maximise road capacity and improve safety and traffic flow, while decreasing travel times by up to 30 per cent on this section of the road.
  • $2.02 million towards the $4.04 million Hume Freeway Truck Rest Area Vacancy Information System (TRAVIS). This project will install detection systems at six truck rest areas along the freeway between Wodonga and Benalla in Victoria, and from later this year will inform drivers of vacancies at rest stops.

These projects maximise capacity and maintain traffic flows on our land transport networks including capital city motorways, the interstate rail network, and variable speed signs and truck stop availability information systems that work to improve safety on our national highways.

This investment complements the work undertaken by state and territory governments to better manage their urban and regional transport networks, through the use of Intelligent Transport Systems.

Investing in ITS across Australia will provide more and better transport options for regional Australians to access health, education and jobs.

It will allow us to develop better ways to get fresh produce to domestic and export markets quicker, as well as providing high quality road and rail transport to improve the productivity of our cities.

Much of the technology has been around for over a generation, mainly in the traffic management systems we take for granted.

All of you here will be aware that technologies such as variable speed limits, active lane management, ramp metering, telematics, e-tolling and traveller information systems tend to be low cost and high return.

The value of these technologies and systems to infrastructure funders and owners is that they can improve the performance of existing assets, thereby extending the life of the asset—all for much less than building new infrastructure.

Where new infrastructure is required, data from telematics and other intelligent transport systems can help us plan the right project at the right time, such as in South Australia where data from Bluetooth devices has assisted in the planning process.

The ITS sector in Australia is very healthy. The work undertaken by Australian businesses in this area is internationally competitive, broad-based and innovative.

For example, here in Canberra, we have a world-leading firm called Seeing Machines that specialises in computer vision and artificial intelligence, and is part of Canberra's automated vehicle trial.

The next wave of transport technology is rapidly emerging, transforming the existing land transport network by connecting control systems, infrastructure and vehicles, enabling them to talk to each other.

The global deployment of semi-autonomous vehicle technology, currently anticipated by 2020, promises to deliver a major improvement in road safety, by reducing the human factors behind most road deaths and serious injuries. Unlike people, machines won't be distracted, tired, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or make simple mistakes while driving.

Some of this technology is already available in existing vehicles, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, parking assistance, and autonomous emergency braking.

Data from the use of these kinds of automation technologies is already showing real benefits.  For example, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) has been observed to typically reduce crashes by 20 per cent.

United States authorities estimate that Tesla's advanced driver assistance package has reduced crashes by 40 per cent.

Beyond 2020, the commercial deployment of vehicles with increasing levels of autonomy and reduced levels of human control is expected to take place, although it could take several decades for this technology to filter through the vehicle fleet.

The safety potential of more sophisticated automation is large, noting the well-known international evidence that human error may be a factor in more than 90 per cent of crashes.

The eventual mass deployment of connected and autonomous vehicle technology will require extensive changes to almost every aspect of the existing transport system, particularly the supporting infrastructure, control systems and the regulatory and legal environments.

There is a broad range of work underway to assess and develop the digital and physical infrastructure and the regulatory environment to support emerging vehicle technologies, including:

  • a 10-year commitment to put Australia at the forefront of emerging mobility technologies through the i-MOVE Cooperative Research Centre, supported by $55 million of Australian Government money and over $178 million of cash and in-kind contribution from industry, academia and government;
  • testing the ability to provide improved positioning infrastructure and mapping through a two-year trial of a Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS) funded by the Australian Government;
  • assessing potential changes to road network management to support and optimise the outcomes from the introduction of connected and autonomous vehicles (an Austroads project); and
  • an increasing focus in project development and assessment on the opportunities for autonomous vehicles and other technologies to reduce congestion and improve traffic flows, as highlighted in Infrastructure Australia's Australian Infrastructure Plan.

It is only through national cooperation that the full benefits of the technological transformation of Australia's land transport network will be realised.

My Department is working closely with the states and territories, across Australian Government agencies, and internationally to prepare Australia for deployment of increasingly automated vehicles and land transport infrastructure.

Last year, Australian Transport Ministers agreed to the National Policy Framework for Land Transport Technology, which lays out a three-year work plan to deliver a principles-based approach to facilitate the efficient, effective, and consistent implementation and uptake of transport technology across Australia.

In August 2017, I established the Transport Technology Futures Branch within my Department to lead the implementation of this work plan and communicate the benefits of technological change to the public.

The new branch brings the expertise of the Department's strategic policy, environmental, and motor vehicle standards teams together to provide leadership across government and at a national level on the deployment of emerging transport technologies.

There's also some other important work in this space going on in the House of Representatives, with the Industry, Innovation and Science Committee about to wrap up its inquiry on the social aspects of land-based driverless vehicles.

The examination of how the social licence for autonomous vehicles can be achieved and how to ensure the benefits they bring are shared across urban, regional and rural Australia are important issues that can sometimes get lost with a focus purely on technology.

Tonight I've only been able to give you just a small sample of what the Australian Government is doing in ITS policy.

I feel we are all on the start of a long journey toward an exciting land transport future. Thank you.