Driverless cars will be commonplace on our roads in five years.

Driverless cars will be commonplace on our roads in five years.

Boldly driving into a driverless future

Driverless cars will revolutionise transport

Transport
Aa

Transport has always defined how we live. The next revolution will be the biggest yet.

Aa

Transport has always defined how we live. The next revolution will be the biggest yet.

Innovation in transport doesn't just make life more comfortable, it can literally determine where we call 'home' and change the trajectory of the work we do and the entire economy.

The story of evolution and civilisation of humanity are very closely linked. Hunter and gatherers had to be mobile, but their main form of transportation was their feet and our ancient ancestors lived where the herd (their next meal) did.

As we evolved into an agricultural society the invention of the wheel transportation allowed us to move resources between human settlements and start the process of building a world around us, instead of constantly wandering around the world, slowly, yet permanently by foot.

The permanence of our locations allowed further technologies to be developed; technology that was needed to support the stability of our locations. We started a long period of centralisation. Where we lived defined what we did. We worked local, we lived local and we stayed local.

This was largely driven by the fact that our various forms of transport were still powered by animals.

The marriage of mechanisation and fossil fuels led the dawn of industrialisation. We moved en masse to cities to participate in the wealth promised by the Industrial Revolution. And largely, this promise was delivered. In the past 100 years we've doubled human life expectancy. Most of us have more material possessions now than even royalty did a few hundred years ago.

We can heat or cool our homes at the push of a button, we have clothes in our wardrobes and food in our fridges, there are unlimited options for entertainment and we have the ability to fly across the country, and the world, in aeroplanes for a comparatively low cost. There's personal motorised transport, which these days, almost never breaks down.

More than most technologies - transport defines us. You could say Henry Ford literally invented suburbs. Before the Model T, we lived in small workers cottages close to shops and the factories that employed us. The car changed that. We linked our cities with highways to suburbs and shopping centres. People, goods and services could be delivered in a much quicker time, without having to rely on previously established rail links. And as history repeats itself, a new revolution in transport is about to change everything again.

We are on the precipice of a revolution, which will totally redefine where people work and live. The first thing we must consider is this: for the first time in history, labour and location can be separated. A large majority of the Australian workforce are what we call Information Workers. They can do information work from anywhere - they don't have to be 'at the coal face'. They don't have to be in an office in the city, or anywhere in particular, to get the work done.

Now, I'm the first to admit that social interaction is an absolute necessity. We need to be around each other to share ideas and inspire each other, be it in the same physical space or elsewhere. But do we need this five days per week or even 10 hours per day? Of course not.

As profits get harder to realise in an increasingly competitive economy, companies will start to realise the centralised office in a city is legacy thinking that adds unnecessary cost and wasted time in transit for staff. When more companies realise this, and they will, offices around the world will shrink in size. Companies and people will have their 'office days', maybe two days per week, and we'll increasingly work at home or from local 'work hubs'. We'll finally have our cake and eat it too.

This is the revolution that regional centres have been waiting for. But it isn't going to happen if we just wait for it. Everyone living outside a major city should be singing from the rooftops about the new opportunity this represents to local communities. Let's consider some of the big changes we are about to live through. Driverless cars should be at the top of the list.

They're coming much sooner than we think. They'll be commonplace on our roads within five years and dominate them in 10 years. They represent the end of road accidents and road rage. These cars will have the ability to talk to each other and coordinate their movements by algorithms. Traffic jams will no longer be a problem. It will be very hard to get angry in a car when we're lying back, watching a movie while we roll around, getting work done in the mobile office, or snoozing in a business class-style bed for the two-hour trip into the city for a business meeting. Mobility will become a pleasure and much of the tyranny of distance will evaporate.

We'll also see the emergence of a Jetsons-style reality. New self-flying drones or VOTL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) are going to launch 2020.

And if you think you won't be able to afford a driverless car, I've got good news, your first one will be at no extra cost to you. Here's why your new driverless car shall be free; driverless cars will be electric and electric cars have much different economics. Fuel will come at a near-zero cost as most electric car companies provide free charging or you'll charge your car from your roof for close to free.

Even now, an electric car only costs about $2 to charge. The average Australian spends over $3000 a year on petrol. This means we can free up the money we'd usually invest in petrol cars to pay for our upgrade to a driverless vehicle. Your previous petrol money can fund the cost of a new driverless electric car. So just like moving from a dumb phone to a smartphone, we'll all switch almost overnight.

Read more:Ready, set, go: A look at electric cars and their future

We'll also see the emergence of a Jetsons-style reality. New self-flying drones or VOTL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) are going to launch 2020. They'll have an estimated cost as low as $100,000. Reputable companies including Airbus, Boeing, Lillium, Ehang, Google and Uber are all in a race to be the Henry Ford of the new era.

The long-term, major beneficiaries won't be cities, but our regional areas. With much lower costs of housing and living, and access to the natural environments - the regions are the new suburbs. This technology-driven mobility revolution is bigger than any we have ever seen. For the first time in history people will be able to live wherever they please. It will provide much needed relief on city house prices. We'll have the option of lower cost living in regional centres that will have all (and possibly more) liveability benefits of the city. Satellite cities will become more developed.

Regional areas on the bleeding edge of this technology will be inventing new industries, jobs and types of living that we've never seen before. It's up to us to design this location-independent future. The only challenge we face is remembering that technology has the ability to surprise. All of this isn't just possible, it's already here. This technology works and is waiting for smart areas to adopt it, own it and build the future with it.

Community leaders and entrepreneurs need to promote the possibilities to people and how it can benefit their daily lives. We need to decide if we want our regions to be a champion of the future, and if we do, we need to start making it happen. If we have the courage to do that, we won't just solidify our region's economic future, we'll be an example of incredible possibility for the entire world.

Steve Sammartino is one of Australia's leading futurists. You can reach him and follow his work on stevesammartino.com

Aa