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Driverless cars: will public transport be a winner?

By Alan Davies - posted Tuesday, 20 March 2018

  • Driverless vehicles could only be "rented" for exclusive use as needed; this would reduce the size of the fleet and the number of parking spaces required
  • Travel is paid for by the kilometre/hour and weighted by the level of congestion; this would moderate usage by making the cost apparent.

Realising the potential of autonomous vehicles requires action now to mould public expectations of what a driverless world should look like. The business-as-usual scenario of private ownership of vehicles will otherwise undermine most of the social benefits of the technology.

Another implication of 100% automation could be that the distinction between public and private forms of transport will become much hazier or even disappear. Travellers should be able to better match their travel needs against transport options, selecting their mode of travel from among different size vehicles, ownership structures, and passenger sharing options.


Yet the most significant social and economic changes wrought by the new technology are likely to take place many decades after full implementation is achieved and might be only dimly understood now, if at all. That's the established pattern with most new technologies, from the electric light to the oral contraceptive. The largest impacts result from combining with other technological and social changes, usually decades after the first implementation. The full benefits often rely on the way we do things "catching up" with the potential offered by the technology e.g. business processes.

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This article was first published on Crikey.

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About the Author

Dr Alan Davies is a principal of Melbourne-based economic and planning consultancy, Pollard Davies Pty Ltd ( and is the editor of the The Urbanist blog.

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