1. Introduction

Automated and electric mass transit has a significant role to play 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, as well as research into future projections and the capacity they will require.
According to Engineers Australia (EA), ‘the future of transport is electric, connected, automated and shared’.1 EA acknowledges the risks associated with automation and the fact that fully automated transport systems are still some time off becoming standard. However EA stated that transport automation ‘is set to become a reality and as such adequate research planning and preparation for an electric, connected future is a necessity’.2 It recommended that that governments work towards ‘a regulatory environment that embraces this future’.3
Consultancy firm Arup agreed that ‘both transport autonomy and the application of new energy sources will significantly impact on our cities’. Whether the outcome was positive or negative would depend on how the new technologies were applied and how they operated. According to Arup:
The potential for positive outcomes comes from improvement of safety, accessibility costs for both government and individuals and air quality. Concurrently, the potential for poor outcomes arises from unconstrained use of personal autonomous mobility approaching and within the centres of our cities. Although this also holds true for non-autonomous private vehicles, the outcomes for autonomous vehicles could be far worse.
Autonomous private vehicles have the potential for inducing travel demand and congestion, due to inexpensive and convenient travel choices and the creation of a market that will need to drive use up to maintain profitability. Many mobility gains have the potential to be undone by not considering the desirable attributes of places we want and the capacity of the road network feeding them.4
Arup argued that ‘automation and new energy sources bring compelling reasons to make these investments’. Automation and new energy sources provided ‘opportunities for improving road safety, air quality, operational costs and access to jobs, while also potentially changing travel behaviour and thus the structure of our city regions’. If applied effectively, ‘these technological advances can fundamentally improve current deficits of mobility and access in Australian cities and contribute to more liveable and economically stronger places’.5
Arup concluded that ‘there is no doubt that benefits can and must be realised from the automation of mass transit’, but that ‘Government needs to balance those benefits with protecting public value in the broader economy, society and the places we share’. Arup emphasised that the critical message for Parliament to consider ‘is that the technology itself is not new and should be seen as a secondary consideration’. It argued that ‘the focus should be on the total systemic opportunities to the economy, society and the environment’.6
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 will play in managing this transport revolution.

Conduct of the inquiry

The inquiry was referred to the Committee by the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, on 25 October 2018.
Over the course of the Inquiry, the Committee received 52 submissions. A list of submissions is at Appendix A. In addition, the Committee undertook a program of public hearings. In February 2019, the Committee held five public hearings, including hearings in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. Details of the public hearings, including a list of witnesses, are at Appendix B.

Structure of the Report

This report consists of four chapters.
Chapter 2 will explore the wider context of automation before examining the benefits of transport automation. It will then examine specific aspects of automated rail and road mass transit, before analysing the need to develop integrated transport systems joining mass transit system to the wider transport network. It will then consider some of the implications of the transition to automation.
Chapter 3 will examine the benefits of electrification (battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles) of the vehicle fleet and the convergence between electrification and automation, before looking at the infrastructure requirements of electric vehicles, including charging stations, and their interaction with the energy sector. It will then focus on hydrogen as a source of energy for the vehicle fleet and the particular infrastructure requirements of the hydrogen sector. Finally it will consider the benefits of the revolutionary Hyperloop transport technology.
Chapter 4 will identify what stakeholders see as the role of government in the development of automated mass transit and new energy sources, before giving an overview of current Australian Government activity in this area. It will then examine specific policy priorities related to the development of automated mass transit and new energy sources.

  • 1
    Engineers Australia, Submission 37, p. 3.
  • 2
    Engineers Australia, Submission 37, p. 4.
  • 3
    Engineers Australia, Submission 37, p. 3.
  • 4
    Arup, Submission 32, p. 4.
  • 5
    Arup, Submission 32, p. 2.
  • 6
    Arup, Submission 32, p. 2.

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