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The world is poised to turn a corner with the advent of driverless vehicles and transport analysts are jumping on board.
Trackless trams which run on virtual rail lines have been tested in China.
Canberra programmer Kent Fitch said such autonomous technologies would revolutionise transport.
"The political, legislative, regulatory and economic issues are going to be much more important than the technological issues," he said.
"Governments of Singapore and the United Kingdom are very much on the front foot trying to plan for this.
"But in the ACT, you look out the window and you see tram tracks going down, which is odd."
Mr Fitch pointed to Australian jurisdictions where autonomous public transport had been proposed.
"New South Wales has seen this coming, it's inevitable, and they're trying to plan for it," he said.
"In Canberra there's that emphasis on an old mode of transport when something new is just about to happen."
Light rail project a century in the makingThe ACT Government has anticipated the first stage of Canberra's light rail service would be running by the end of the year.
It has spruiked the historical credentials of the project in promotional material along the city's main arterial road.
Back in 1912 Canberra's designer Walter Burley Griffin included plans for a light rail network through the capital.
The project is tipped to reduce congestion as well as increase amenity in the north of Canberra.
Stage one has cost the taxpayer $707 million.
A second stage has been proposed which will connect the north and south of the city.
It's estimated the cost will be double the price of stage one.
Plans derailed for traditional tracksNow, experts are looking towards other technologies that come in at a fraction of the cost.
Transport analyst Professor Peter Newman spoke on The Science Show about the surge of interest in trackless trams.
"All light rail systems are moving in a direction of getting more autonomous technology involved in them," he said.
"There is a second rail revolution occurring."
The sustainability expert has long advocated for light rail in his home city of Perth, but now he has embraced the trackless tram as a more sustainable option.
"You don't dig up the street and destroy the economy in that street for four years," he said.
"Developers like to build around them and you therefore get the kind of densities you need to make cities really work."
The significant cost associated with light rail infrastructure would also be done away with.
Trackless trams would follow sensors designated by painted lines along the road.
"A light rail system that sometimes, like in Sydney's case, cost $120 million per kilometre, we think could be done for $5 million per kilometre," Professor Newman said.
Global transport at a crossroadsUnsurprisingly, the arrival of light rail in Canberra won't be the biggest game changer of 2018.
Mr Fitch predicted driverless cars would be on the road by the end of the year in the United States.
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He has also modelled the logistics of having a driverless car network in Canberra.
"It will be around 25 cents a kilometre compared to a private car which is around 55 to 80 cents a kilometre to run," he said.
"They're going to have to be shared. You won't own a car — you'll just use it as a service."
Mr Fitch said ethical issues would be at the forefront of the new technology.
"How would you arrange the service so everyone feels safe?
"Autonomous cars or robot systems may bring this into sharper relief and make us confront problems we'd rather not talk about.
"I guess some people would never want to get in such a car and I think that's perfectly fine."
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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