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Prime Mover Magazine

Expert links Big Data with autonomous vehicles

American entrepreneur, Russell Shields, used last week’s ITS Showcase in Sydney to draw the connection between Big Data and autonomous driving, saying the depth of information gathered from new technology could change the way roads are funded.

“I am confident that [autonomous] technology is going to significantly change how vehicles and even roads are used and how they will look,” he said, reasoning that as processing hardware and communications networks are becoming more powerful, so will vehicle control systems.

According to Shields, the information obtained from them can then contribute to further improving infrastructure, safety, time savings, the environment and "quality of life in general".

“I feel that it is reasonably likely that we will have [data-driven] road pricing some time in the next 20 years,” he explained. “It’s safe to say we will move away from fuel taxes. It will be a political problem, but step by step a better analysis will be available of how the roads are used and charged for.”

Speaking in Sydney, Russell also said that Big Data may soon be made accessible to infrastructure authorities and environmental authorities too – for instance to collect information on safety black spots by tracking locations that regularly see hard braking or the activation of Electronic Stability Control systems.

Commenting on the implementation timeframe, Shields said that autonomous vehicle development by companies such as Google, Volvo, Freightliner and Daimler, is "relatively well advanced" already.

“It will take longer than a lot of the hype, but it will happen,” he commented. “I believe that by 2021, we’ll have some reasonably advanced, hands-off, eyes-off, good weather vehicles available that can drive on motorways in most conditions – and that’s arguably where the chances for truck applications lie, too.

"By 2025 they will likely be able to handle country roads and by 2030, maybe even navigate small towns. But there won’t be autonomous driving in a place like Sydney before 2035 or 2040.”

Shields is also a board member of the ITS World Congress. which is expected to attract more than 5,000 delegates when it is held in Melbourne during October this year.

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