Executive Summary

Automated and electric mass transit will play a significant role in the connectivity of our cities and regions. But automated mass transit must be placed within the wider context of the optimum transport needs of those cities and regions—transport networks based on shared and multi-modal mobility. Realising the full potential of these networks will require sustained policy development and investment.
This report examines current and future developments in the use of automation and new energy sources in land-based mass transit, including rail and road mass transit, point-to-point transport using automated vehicles, and the role and responsibilities of the Commonwealth in the development of these technologies. It will analyse the opportunities and challenges presented by automation and new energy sources, and the role the Australian Government has to play in managing this transport revolution.


The automation of mass transit is a potentially revolutionary development in transport. Realising the potential benefits of transport automation will depend on the planning framework and policies that are put in place, and the vision underpinning those plans and policies. Transport automation should take place within a wider planning framework which integrates automated transport with the planning of the urban and regional environment to maximise liveability, sustainability and productivity.
Transport automation, especially when combined with alternative fuel sources, will have major implications for transport infrastructure. Automated vehicles will require a suitable environment in which to operate—one that they can read and communicate with. They will make demands on communications, the internet, physical infrastructure and energy networks. Meeting these demands will require careful planning and significant investment.
Optimising automation will also demand a multi-modal response—creating a seamless transport network across a variety of transport modes, connected by information exchanges (such as mobile apps) and seamless ticketing—Mobility as a Service (MaaS). A systems approach, in which operators provide services across areas rather than modes, could transform urban transport. However, this will require coordination with private transport and rideshare operators and a commitment to social inclusion. Within this context, mass transit will provide high-volume trunk routes as the core of the transport network. The goal should be the creation of a new transport ecosystem. Consideration should be given to policies which promote the development of this ecosystem, including restrictions on private automated transport and ridesharing, and the encouragement of shared mobility.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop its strategies and plans to address the development of transport automation and alternative fuel sources through the strategic framework set out in the Committee’s report on the development of cities, Building Up & Moving Out; adopt as its goal support for the development of a new automated transport ecosystem, incorporating shared mobility based on strong mass transit trunk routes; undertake consideration of the benefits of automation and electrification for the transport of freight; and develop a strategy for managing the transition to full automation on roads.

New energy sources

Electrification of transport has real potential to lower costs, reduce the environmental impacts of land transport and enhance national fuel security. By investing in zero-emissions technologies, Australia could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions related to transport, significantly reduce noise pollution associated with land transport, make vehicles simpler and safer to operate and maintain, and largely eliminate reliance on fuel imports. Battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology both offer solutions for electrification. The two technologies are complementary, with battery electric vehicles being well suited to short-range small-vehicle travel in an urban environment, and hydrogen power being suited to longer-range and heavy transport use. The Australian Government should look at how it can facilitate the introduction and development of these technologies.
The key to the implementation of new energy sources is the provision of charging and refuelling infrastructure. Coordination and planning is required to ensure that infrastructure meets demand and that refuelling and recharging technology follows defined standards for compatibility and interoperability. It is also essential to explore the energy implications of new energy sources. Hydrogen power brings its own infrastructure demands. The Committee notes the work done by the Chief Scientist and CSIRO to investigate and promote the development of hydrogen power in Australia. This is now a mature technology and the challenge is to identify the optimum pathway to introducing and developing hydrogen powered transport in conjunction with battery electric vehicles. The production and transport of hydrogen in cost-effective and energy-efficient ways is essential to the development of hydrogen power. The Committee supports the development of a national hydrogen strategy.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government facilitates the introduction and uptake of electric vehicles (both BEV and FCEV); develops a national hydrogen strategy; and maintains a close watch on the development of Hyperloop technology with a view to its development as a transport solution in Australia.
There is convergence between electrification and automation. The Committee is of the view that electrification and automation should be implemented and managed together.

Role of Government

The Australian Government, along with State and Territory Governments, has a significant role to play in the development of automated mass transit and new energy sources in Australia. The Australian Government has a central role in providing policy leadership and coordination nationally, especially through COAG and the work of agencies such as the National Transport Commission and Austroads. The Australian Government is already coordinating the development of policy through the Office of Future Transport Technology. In addition, the work done by Infrastructure Victoria to scope automation and alternative energy sources has national implications.
Perhaps the most important thing the Australian Government can provide to the future development of automated transport and new energy sources is vision. This national vision should encompass:
A vision for and planning of the urban and regional environment incorporating automated mass transit and new energy sources.
A clear articulation of the optimum design of the urban environment, including mass transit and active transport.
A vision for shared mobility incorporating Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
The goal of fuel security.
Within this vision, the Australian Government can provide leadership and coordination of policy with a focus on consistency and interoperability between jurisdictions; facilitate the development of national standards based on relevant international standards; coordinate the development of relevant energy and communications infrastructure—including making provision for data management and sharing, and cybersecurity within automated transport networks; and facilitate the development of these new technologies through incentives, especially vehicle emission standards.
Within this context, it is vital that we identify and overcome regulatory barriers to automated vehicles, particularly trains, trams and buses. The Committee believes that preparing road and rail networks for automation is essential to the smooth transition to the new technology and that governments need to commit to the automation and alternative fuels by designing and building infrastructure around those requirements.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government undertake a study to establish the national implications of Infrastructure Victoria’s work on automated and zero emissions vehicles; articulates a clear vision for cities and regions and the connectivity within and between them; pursues an effective standards based approach to the development of transport automation and electrification; estimates the national requirement for electricity generation under an electric and automated transport future; audits Australia’s existing transport communications infrastructure and requirements for automation at various stages, with a view to developing a national strategy for transport communications infrastructure for full automation of land transport; facilitates the adoption of automated and electric vehicles through a range of incentives; assists in managing change, especially in the workforce, in the transition to automation; gives early consideration to road user pricing models as the principal funding mechanism for road transport infrastructure; establishes the Office of National Chief Engineer; and expands the Office of Future Transport Technology to cover alternative energy sources.

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