SA premier sees bright future for driverless car industry

State a potential testbed for driverless car tech, premier says

Modified Volvo XC90s are being used for the South Australian test drives.

Modified Volvo XC90s are being used for the South Australian test drives.

South Australia could be a testbed for driverless cars with the emerging area of technology delivering a potential jobs windfall for the state, according to the SA's premier, Jay Weatherill.

"It's our job to actually look over the horizon and see the big trends that are occurring around the world and get South Australia in on the ground floor to get those opportunities," the premier said during a doorstep interview following the opening of the International Driverless Cars Conference in Adelaide.

Driverless car technology can deliver "enormous social good," the SA premier said.

"It's going to improve the productivity of our roads, it will improve safety on our roads, but more importantly it gets us in with the technologies that create jobs here - long-term, good, sustainable jobs for the future."

However, the emergence of autonomous driving vehicles raises not only technological but social and ethical issues that will need to be grappled with, Weatherill said.

"That's why we're having a conference of this sort," he said.

The premier will be participating in driverless cars trials that are set to be held this weekend as part of the International Driverless Cars Conference.

The tests are part of road research agency ARRB's Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative and will involve modified Volvo XC90s. Volvo, Telstra and Bosch are supporting the trials.

The South Australian government has introduced a bill to make the tests possible.

South Australia participating in the manufacturing of driverless vehicles was a "very realistic" prospect, Weatherill said.

"As technologies change and vehicles start to get into smaller runs you may well see South Australia involved in — perhaps not the assembly of the whole of the vehicle — but crucial elements of the vehicle might be capable of being manufactured here," the premier said.

Cohda Wireless, which develops technology for connected vehicles, is based in the state, he noted.

The state government has had a number of approaches from companies that make technologies for driverless cars and are interested in a potential presence in SA, he said.

"We're very much at the research stage of this matter but we've had some very exciting propositions put to us," he added.

"We want to send a message to the broader community that if you represent a company or a research organisation, if you're an entrepreneur or an investor, if you're interested in this driverless car industry, we're interested in talking to you," Weatherill said in remarks prepared for the conference's opening.

"Put simply, the value proposition that we are providing for this industry for this push is something that we believe is incredibly important to this sector," the premier said.

"We have an impressive track record as an incubator for a test-bed of ideas, we're big enough to have a critical mass of skills and infrastructure and capability yet at the same time we're small enough for companies to get things done quickly, to get good access to decision makers, to come to a low-cost low-tax pro-growth business environment and also to have people who have that have a bias for 'yes' for this industry."

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Rohan Pearce

Computerworld
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