Driverless cars and congestion charging up for discussion at IAQ Qld Infrastructure Summit 2016

The well-known fatal crash involving a self-driving Tesla car and a lorry suggests a completely driverless future is some time away, but nonetheless regulators and businesses need to start preparing for it. Hence it is great to see driverless cars are on the agenda for the upcoming Queensland Infrastructure Summit, which is being organised by the Infrastructure Association of Queensland (IAQ) and is being held on the 15th of September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Summit features an impressive list of speakers including leading demographer Bernard Salt from KPMG, the head of Queensland’s Infrastructure Department Frankie Carroll, two Deputy Under-Treasurers from Queensland Treasury, and Damian Gould of Advisian, among others.

Other topics for discussion at the Summit include one of my favourite urban policy measures: congestion charging. As the cost of building new roads, bridges and tunnels grows ever larger, it is imperative that we consider transport demand management options such as congestion charging, which I have previously posted on:

Productivity Commission re-litigates road pricing reform

Based on the current Summit agenda, CEDA Chief Economist Nathan Taylor looks set to give an interesting presentation on congestion charging titled From Adam Smith to Now:

“Despite the importance of roads as a business input and as an amenity for urban centres, they are among the least reformed of all infrastructure sectors. The funding and delivery institutional arrangements have been unchanged for decades. A lack of road pricing results in inefficient investment, poor incentives for consumers and distorts usage choices. This presentation will discuss congestion pricing from Adam Smith’s time to the present, and explain why it has never been more likely nor more critical than now.”

Alas, the Summit registration fee is nearly $1,500 (excluding GST) for non-members. Local Government officials are being charged a much lower rate, so I expect a high proportion of attendees will be from Councils. I hope IAQ will eventually make the presentations publicly available, because I am sure they will be of interest to many and will be highly policy-relevant.

Adam_Smith_The_Muir_portrait

A good question for economists to ask themselves: What would Adam Smith recommend in this situation?

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4 Responses to Driverless cars and congestion charging up for discussion at IAQ Qld Infrastructure Summit 2016

  1. Glen says:

    In the water industry we are moving toward data logging across water meter fleets as a way of analysing usage and peek demand periods, I would have thought by now data logging motor vehicle usage and moving to a user pays system where motorists are charged for the time their vehicles spend on the road would be more advanced, as hybrid and electric cars become more popular fuel taxes will no longer represent road usage as it did in the past.

  2. Jim says:

    Hopefully the discussions will also cover the role of technology in trip generation and the interactions with other measures like road pricing (e.g. will congestion charging make workers think differently about the need to be in the CBD, prompting more telecommuting, or working from suburban offices?). Technologies have a real potential to impact trip generation, planing and subsequent infrastructure needs. I’m not sure planners have really got past thinking that historical growth is a good indicator of future growth. I strongly suspect it isn’t at all and we are potentially about to waste billions on transport infrastructure.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Very true, Jim, particularly given Gen Ys and Zs have lower rates of car ownership and are more likely to live in the inner city and walk or catch public transport than previous generations.

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