NSW’s transport system is going to be a very different beast in 5 years

Trains will soon be driverless between he CBD and Rouse Hill.

New South Wales’ Future Transport Summit has now finished up in Sydney, and with that, we got a great look at what the government plans for the state’s future.

Some of brightest minds in Australia and the world, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, all spoke about their visions for the future which included everything from driverless cars, a sharing economy and even robots at airports.

But over the next 5 years, these will be the biggest changes coming to NSW’s transport system.

Public transport

On Monday, transport minister Andrew Constance announced that the government would be trialling a new payment system for public transport where users can tap on with just their debit or credit card. The trial is scheduled to take place from early 2017 and will eventually spread to all buses, trains, ferries and light rail in Sydney.

The trial itself, like Opal, will be based off London’s Oyster system. To upgrade the London system, it cost the city roughly $125 million but the upgrade apparently paid for itself through admin savings and more people using the public transport system.

It’s expected to follow the same method as London’s, which has been in place since 2014, where both Opal and credit or debit cards will have the same fare rules applied.

On top of just standard credit or debit cards, the new upgrades would also open up the option to tap on using Apple Pay or Android Pay on your smartphone, and even smartwatches with payment capabilities such as the Apple Watch.

Looking a little bit further along, Constance also added that we can expect to see driverless buses added to the state’s fleet, which would add to the automated Sydney metro system already underway.

Driverless cars

This was a big part of the summit, with three major factors discussed. The first is that Constance believes autonomous vehicles will be on NSW roads within the next five years.

“We’re going to have driverless cars on our streets, in our suburbs,” he said.

It’s a bold statement, especially with only a handful of companies saying they will have products by then. Well, they hope to anyway. Constance acknowledged this, adding that the government has a big job ahead of them to get everything ready.

“If I look at the ways in which we’re going to have to change our transport planning, our road networks, the way in which insurance is going to change, all of this is going to happen incredibly quickly and I want us to be front and centre,” he said.

He acknowledged that South Australia was the first for initial road tests, which it completed in closed conditions with Volvo last November, but also said the state may have “jumped the gun a little bit”.

As part of this bold goal, the NSW government is also opening a Smart Innovation Centre in Western Sydney which will house research around emerging transport and road technology, which includes autonomous vehicles.

“To prepare for the arrival of automated vehicles in the Australian car market, we’re working closely with our federal and interstate counterparts examining the necessary legislative, regulatory and road design changes — we want to get this right,” roads minister Duncan Gay said.

“This hub is going to support and optimise the outcomes of the introduction of automated vehicles as well as look at solutions for congestion and road safety.”

Less traffic congestion

Another big focus will be the use of machine-to-machine technology, which will become prevalent especially once 5G mobile networks launch between 2018 and 2020.

For now though, the government will be trialling technology that will allow trucks and major intersections to communicate so that trucks get more green lights.

The theory is that the change could improve travel times at over 100 major intersections in Sydney and result in smoother overall traffic across Sydney’s roads.

“Heavy vehicles take a long time to stop and start which can cause delays for all road users,” Gay said.

“This trial will detect a heavy vehicle approaching traffic lights and provide more green time, which will hopefully show us how we can ease delays for all motorists across the whole network in the future.

“We could potentially expand the use of this kind of technology to emergency vehicles and buses which could improve daily commutes – the opportunities are vast.”

The trial is being run in partnership with local tech company Cohda Wireless and will see 110 trucks fitted with the technology that allows them to talk with the lights.