FUTURE SENSE: The new Maroochydore CBD is being designed with extensive use of technology to create a dynamic city centre.
FUTURE SENSE: The new Maroochydore CBD is being designed with extensive use of technology to create a dynamic city centre.

Driverless cars are no longer science-fiction, they're here

IMAGINE on-demand driverless cars.

Book a car on your smartphone and the closest available vehicle arrives from a parking pod to pick you up and deliver to you wherever you want to go.

There'll be no need for the car to park at the destination - it will simply return to the parking pod, or move on to its next task.

Driverless cars are no longer science-fiction, they're here and among us.

Tesla is already road testing self-driving cars in California and BMW will release self-driving cars by the end of this year.

The technology will change not only the way we drive, but the way we live.

With claims that nearly all cars will be driverless within 20 years, Project Urban managing director Andrew Stevens believes those in the development industry need to start thinking about, and planning for, how our communities will look in 10 and 20 years time.

"There will be impacts on the way we design our houses, our roads, our car parks, and so much more. We need to start thinking about these implications now, not later.''

Driverless technology will see car ownership dramatically decrease as we embrace car sharing schemes and smart taxi firms, Mr Stevens said.

"A single car could service several households. There will be fewer cars but they will be more productive, rather than sitting motionless in garages and car parks most of the time, as they do now.

"Driverless cars will most probably be stored off-site, where transport connections are good, and land is cheap - think multi-storey car stackers in an industrial area. We will no longer be two-car households, or even one-car households.''

So what will we do with our double garages when most of us don't own a car? How do we design homes for the new future?

Just look at the new Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital with its fleet of automatic guided vehicles delivering everything and anything in a series of tunnels beneath the building, even able to navigate lifts.

"Our commercial and retail buildings will no longer need hundreds of car parks,'' Mr Stevens said.

"We need to think about how we can re-purpose the sea of parking bays that currently surround our shopping centres.''

"We will have almost no commercial parking demand, but we will need drop-off facilities and queuing areas.

"Driverless cars can travel in convoys, mere centimetres away from each other. Our road lanes can be narrower.

"There will be increased transit efficiency, less congestion and more space on our urban roads.

"Our roads will be safer, more efficient and less congested.''

Just think. There'll be no drink driving, speeding, falling asleep at the wheel, risk taking, hooning, road rage or rubber-necking.

"In short, driver error can be drastically reduced, and we stand to save the 1000-plus lives that are currently lost each year on Australian roads.

"Driverless cars will improve prosperity and social equity because private transport will be more affordable.

"Now is the time to begin the thought processes around a future where driverless cars are commonplace,'' Mr Stevens said.