Having a discussion about vehicles driving in ‘nodes’ in a connected network, communicating with each other and roadside infrastructure, as well as using satellites and driving themselves, has the potential to raise eyebrows.

Driverless vehicles may seem like a radical shift to some, and the biggest disruption to the conventional car to ever occur, but one thing is certain – the technology is on its way so it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

The US has just issued the first licences for driverless vehicles and Nevada, Florida and California have already passed laws allowing the testing of fully autonomous or driverless vehicles on public roads, while Britain is currently choosing a city in which to trial them.

South Australia has also commenced the debate around driverless vehicles and what is required to accommodate them on their roads.

So what is Western Australia doing?

In order to ensure the introduction of driverless vehicles and the infrastructure required to accommodate them is fully considered, we need to start exploring a number of policy, regulatory and technological requirements.

Building eff‡ective relationships across all levels of government, vehicle manufacturers, technology and information suppliers and relevant stakeholders will be critical to having an informed conversation about the infrastructure our state needs for the future.

RAC believes that as a state we must ensure the expansion of the road network is balanced against the need to make better use of the infrastructure we already have, and of new and emerging technology solutions, in concert with better co-ordinated traŠffic management and road works planning.

Intelligent Transport Systems is a collective term covering many aspects of advanced transport management, but unlocking its potential provides us with real opportunities to help reduce congestion, improve mobility, save lives and stop serious injuries, and ensure our existing and future transport networks work harder, smarter and are more integrated.

We are taking our first steps with Managed Freeways, which could make a significant ‡difference to reliability, safety and the journey experience for travellers.

Making better use of technology to manage traffic signals is also expected to have significant benefits for road users.

In-car technology, where it relates to changing or mitigating the effects of road user behaviours, will play a key role in reducing road trauma and congestion.

Our cars are already making decisions for us, with an ever-expanding set of crash avoidance technologies present in many modern vehicles.

Driverless vehicles are on their way. We need to start planning and considering the future now, so that communication networks and supporting infrastructure are in place to embrace new transport technology, and unlock its potential benefits.