Driverless cars on the way, senators told

It sounds like something out of The Jetsons.


But according to trucking and road safety groups, driverless cars are on the way.

The independent vehicle safety advocate says future autonomous cars might not even have a steering wheel.

But ANCAP CEO Nicholas Clarke told a Senate inquiry in Canberra on Friday he was unsure what training would be needed to drive such vehicles.

“It would be like getting in a taxi almost,” he said.

Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir recalled how he was asked at a recent car club gathering if vehicles had no steering wheel, what was the point of paying for a licence.

Mr Clarke agreed, saying there may also be no point in owning a vehicle.

“It may be in years to come, my kids and my kid’s kids ring up a number, do it on their device… and a car will appear… like a train.”

Committee chair Glenn Sterle remarked how it all sounded like The Jetsons, the animated science fiction comedy dating back to the 1960s.

Earlier the Australian Trucking Association was asked about driverless trucks, as difficult as it was to imagine.

“Then again, if you were back in the telegram era, Skype would have been a bit hard to come to terms with,” Liberal senator Bill Heffernan remarked.

The association’s Bill McKinley said the next step in technology was more likely an auto-pilot.

In concept vehicles there was already lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control which deaccelerated to the speed of the vehicle in front.

Next will be autonomous emergency breaking, Mr McKinley said.

“They still require a driver, but the driver is not required to physically drive a truck at all times.”

The technology was not going to happen within five years, but it would happen, Mr McKinley told senators.

He backed the view of Victoria Police that the technology would result in fewer accidents.