21st Oct 2018
The idea of reading a book or texting your friends while your driverless car takes you around might be appealing, but a Queensland parliamentary committee has been warned of potentially devastating privacy risks associated with autonomous cars.
- The leak of personal information could be devastating, the Office of the Information Commissioner says, for example, the locations visited by a domestic violence victim
- There are concerns about large-scale job losses as driving roles across the transport sector become redundant
- The transport technology inquiry will hold public hearings in Brisbane on October 29
Queensland’s Transport and Public Works Committee is holding an inquiry into transport technology, including the rise of electric and driverless vehicles, and their impact on roads and jobs.
This includes your real-time location, in-car camera footage, places you frequently visit, even favourite restaurants, music choices, air conditioning settings and fingerprints.
So what if that information is hacked?
The OIC warns that “privacy breaches can have devastating consequences for individuals, for example, the tracking and location of a domestic violence victim”.
It also cautions that personal information could be exploited for commercial purposes and calls for “appropriate legislative constraints” on how law enforcement agencies can access the data.
Will driverless cars trigger job losses?
The Taxi Council of Queensland (TCQ) thinks so.
Representing 20,000 members, in its submission to the inquiry, the TCQ describes the introduction of autonomous vehicles as “the most significant disruption to prevailing operational and business paradigms” the sector will ever experience.
It acknowledges benefits of driverless cars, including reducing the number of crashes caused by human error and reducing vehicle emissions.
But the TCQ also fears “large-scale job losses as driving roles across the transport sector become redundant”.
The National Road Transport Association also noted a “significant amount of anxiety” among truck drivers that they will be forced out of work.
How soon will all this change occur?
The Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads said in its submission the state would experience significant and unprecedented change over the next 30 years.
“Emerging technologies and trends are likely to cause profound transformations to Queensland’s transport system,” the department’s submission to the inquiry said.
Toll road operator Transurban predicts that in the “not too distant future” electric and autonomous cars would be the standard, not the exception.
“New technologies are triggering the biggest revolution of the transport sector since cars replaced horses,” Transurban wrote in its submission.
“The impact of this revolution will be far reaching.”
A trial of a driverless shuttle bus began at Springfield in Ipswich, west of Brisbane, in February this year.
How many of us are driving electric cars now?
Qld’s vehicle fleet by fuel type
|Fuel type||Number of vehicles in category|
|Hybrid electric vehicles (Diesel/electric or petrol/electric)||19,873|
|Fully electric vehicle||798|
|Bi-Fuel (Petrol/gas or diesel/gas)||28,280|
Data current as at 30 June 2018, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads
Transport Department figures show petrol vehicles are still by far the most common, with almost 3 million of those registered in Queensland as of June 2018.
The number of registered electric vehicles is comparatively small, but increased by more than 70 per cent between 2016 and 2018.
In 2016, there were 78 publicly accessible charging stations for electric vehicles — now there are 284.
A recent study commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation predicted electric vehicle sales would make up at least 25 per cent of new vehicle sales in Australia by 2030.
What does it all mean?
Putting it simply, less money for governments to spend on roads.
Transurban and the Transport Department point out that the Commonwealth relies heavily on the fuel excise to raise road revenue, but with more fuel-efficient or electric cars, revenue is already falling.
Transurban said in its submission the current funding system “will not survive the transport revolution” and advocates for a road user charging scheme.
“Australia needs to reform its road-funding model to provide a fair and sustainable system that is built on a principle that those who benefit pay,” the Transurban submission said.
“This will allow us to invest and provide a revenue stream that is aligned with actual road use.”
But another organisation, the International Aerospace Law and Policy Group (IALPG), does not think we should be too worried about that anyway.
“Advances in autonomous aircraft technology will in the coming years reduce the pressure on traditional road transport systems, reduce passenger commutes, and increase delivery efficiencies which will all have the effect of making our cities more liveable,” the IALPG said.
The parliamentary Transport and Public Works Committee will hold public hearings on the issue, starting in Brisbane on October 29.