Photo by Sam Wermut on Unsplash

How quickly is the shift to autonomous vehicles likely to happen? According to some, like Stanford University’s Tony Seba, it could occur in a decade or less, meaning that for many people they have possible bought their last ever vehicle.

This is a change that will dramatically reshape people’s lifestyles, and business models. Shared ownership of cars and fleets will dominate over private ownership, and the implications are dramatic for the transport fuel industry, the transport industry, road infrastructure, and property owners.

Remarkably, a new survey finds that two thirds of property owners believe the advent of autonomous driving will have an impact within 5 to 10 years, but hardly any of them given any thought on how they would repurpose the assets that will be affected – car parking (who will need it), charging stations and the like.

A new report suggests that what is needed is a “leaded petrol moment” when cars as we know them are banned from our cities to make way for a wave of autonomous vehicles (AV).

“What is needed is strong government leadership,” Stephen Taylor, Australian Cities Director of design consultancy and joint report owner Arcadis said.

“We need a leaded petrol moment, where an end-date is set for the driving of analogue cars in our cities. This line in the sand will rapidly accelerate adoption and help our cities plan for an autonomous future.”

“The impact they (AVs) will have on our day-to-day lives, on our communities and on our cities will be extraordinary,” Michael Rose AM, Executive Chairman of the Committee for Sydney which has jointly released the report into the coming changes, said.

“The reduction in on-road deaths and the ability to facilitate movement around our city with the efficiency of an algorithm will transform how we think about travel,” Rose added.

The findings revealed in Are Sydney’s Property and Infrastructure Owners Prepared for Autonomous Mobility shows property and infrastructure owners – think owners of large multi-storey car parks and shopping centres – are not prepared for the massive upheaval which is coming.

“That AVs will change cities is unsurprising,” Rose said.

“But this is not to say that all changes will be entirely positive. The Committee for Sydney has been concerned that there has not been enough thinking about how AVs will reshape where we live, where we work and the public realm around these places.

“Indeed – if we don’t consider the trajectory of this new technology, we run the risk of sleepwalking into a future that is hostile to good urban outcomes and great liveable places.”

The report found that despite 100 per cent of research respondents believing AVs will impact their infrastructure assets, only 10 per cent have a formal plan in place to cater for AVs.

The lack of preparedness was highlighted with 65 per cent of respondents believing AVs will impact their assets within 5-10 years, and the same per cent believing AVs will require them to repurpose their assets (such as turning parking stations into commercial spaces or knocking down and rebuilding).

Mr Taylor said: “Our research found that those in charge of our cities’ largest assets are drastically underprepared for the impact AVs will have on our cities.

“We know they are coming and will impact our cities but those who own and operate our largest assets are either still grappling with what to do or are dragging their feet.”

Arcadis, in partnership with the Committee for Sydney, interviewed some of Sydney’s largest private owners of commercial, residential, retail and mixed-use properties, as well as representatives of local and state government.

The value of assets held by interviewees is estimated at over $28bn, says Arcardis.

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