Recently I spoke on the Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill which smooths the way for future driverless/autonomous car trials in South Australia.
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 12:05 :31 ): I rise today as lead speaker for the opposition on the government's Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill, noting that while the Liberals are supportive of the bill—which makes it easier to regulate potential future trials of autonomous vehicles in South Australia—we stress the importance of using this as an opportunity to bring jobs to and keep investment in South Australia.
The Liberal Party has been supportive of this, and we have been ready to pass legislation since March. The government has been dragging its heels in getting us to this point. The Premier promised the world when he prorogued parliament and restarted proceedings at the beginning of the year. There was a whole lot of fanfare; he promised to knock our socks off with things like time zones, driverless cars, and any other distraction that he could get his hands on. But it has all amounted to nothing. Again, the Premier has let South Australia down and our state keeps falling further behind the other states in Australia. In fact, in the Governor's speech, the Premier had the Governor say:
Our Motor Vehicles Act was written when the FB model Holden was being released to the market in 1959, and our Road Traffic Act two years later.
My government will reform both pieces of legislation, and also legislate for driverless vehicles which will revolutionise transportation in South Australia.
That was the big promise. There was no talk of jobs and no talk of improving the economy; instead, there was talk of driverless cars as a distraction. SA's unemployment rate is 7.5 per cent, Tasmania is at 6.5 per cent, while nationally the figure is 5.9 per cent. South Australia is the worst in the nation. That is where the state government has left us after 14 years of Labor.
The recent CommSec report, which lined up the states' economic performances, was embarrassing beyond belief for the Premier and this government. South Australia is second-bottom on the table for economic prosperity. The CommSec commentary states a concern for South Australia's direction and makes it clear that Tasmania is getting ready to overtake us and sink South Australia to the bottom of the economic ladder.
How will driverless cars or autonomous cars help provide jobs? That is the question the government needs to answer—and they have not. Where will my neighbour find a job? Where will my friend find a job? Where will my cousin get a job in the new driverless car industry? They need jobs. South Australia needs jobs now. Where are they going to come from?
If we look back at the history of the autonomous and driverless vehicles, we can see that Japan, and Honda in particular, has led the way with this. Since 1986, they started getting involved in this technology and developing it from there. They have been doing it for quite a while. We know that Apple and Google have got involved, along with a couple of others, and they have been hiring automotive engineers for the past few years.
The car industry across the board, through companies like Audi, Mercedes and Volvo, has been developing in this area. What has South Australia done—what has this government done—to help produce more of those engineers to go and work in this industry? There is an argument that this industry has been bumbling along for a long time and that the government has dropped the ball. Perhaps if we were going to be at the forefront of this industry, we should have been in this space maybe five or 10 years ago. That is when the frontrunners were starting to move; we are just looking to play catch-up.
As it turns out, Honda's autonomous car expert, Yoichi Sugimoto, says that it will be at least 2030 before a car is completely able to drive itself. So, there is work to be done in this area. As far as the driverless vehicle is concerned, a lot of work has been done. What needs to be done is the work in vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to vehicle and V to X as well—so, all components out there that are in the autonomous space.
This is where the work needs to be advanced. We need to really play some catch-up here in South Australia, and we hope the government pushes forward in this area. We are still yet to see any proposals, but it would be good to see them working with the universities and taking this forward.
What we have to do is work the technology with vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure and vehicle to X (all other external factors), because this is where the advancements need to be made. In fact, my Commodore has a lot of autonomous features, so a lot of these features are already rolled out in a lot of cars around the country and around the world. What we need them to do is be able to talk with other vehicles and other pieces of infrastructure if we are going to advance this technology.
A couple of companies in South Australia have been doing some really good work in this space—I will talk more about them later—and they have been doing it for a long time, way before the government jumped on this bandwagon. We encourage them to keep doing their great work. We encourage the government to show South Australians where they are going to produce more jobs because, as we said, we need jobs and we need jobs now. The government has not put any skin in the game with driverless cars. They have just had a big showpiece, and we will talk more about the showpiece they had here in South Australia a little while ago. We will also talk about the fact that kangaroos were not safe while this was going on.
I have mentioned some of the universities in South Australia and they have been doing their own work, again before the government decided at the start of this year to bring this up as a distractive piece. I know Flinders University, UniSA and Adelaide University have been doing work. So too has Carnegie Mellon University, which has a campus based in South Australia, Monash University and RMIT in other states of the country. The government has not looked to purchase a driverless vehicle to keep working this technology, advancing this technology and advancing that vehicle to infrastructure, vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to external bodies type of work. They have not looked at that and they have not purchased a driverless vehicle. As I said, they have not put any skin in the game.
Where are the jobs going to come from? In the US, Pittsburgh has made itself unofficially the hub of driverless cars. Their universities have produced a number of graduates who have now been poached and gone on to work with companies like Uber, Google and other big car manufacturers in the driverless car sphere, and on driverless car programs. What have we produced? Nothing to date, and there are concerns it is too late. As I mentioned, Honda has been in this space since 1986 and a lot of other companies are well advanced in this space, so catching up in the automated car industry will take a big, big catch-up phase. This is something the government really has to look at and move swiftly on, otherwise we will get left behind.
Potentially partnering with one of these universities that has already done a lot of work would be a very clever way to go, to catch up and use the work that they have done to put us forward and to put us in that space. Buying or building an autonomous vehicle would be another way to go to make sure that we can advance our learnings in this area and develop people who can filter into this industry. At the moment, we have a couple that have set up their own businesses—I mentioned Cohda Wireless and I will speak more about them in a moment—but we have not actually produced loads and loads of people, and the government has not actually outlined how they are going to advance this technology and how they are going to generate jobs, in particular in the immediate term where we need jobs.
A lot of questions are being asked: should we have started five or 10 years ago? Would that have put us in front of the curve and how much catch-up do we need? This government has no plans for jobs. In fact, the Steven Marshall-led Liberal team and our side of the chamber is the only one to put forward an urgent jobs stimulus package for South Australia. We are calling for some action, and we are calling for that action right now, because South Australia is in desperate need of jobs. We need to get relief for families. We need to cut the emergency services levy where the government is just ripping money out of businesses and families like you would not believe. Spend on productive infrastructure like building roads, which is vitally important, and of course doubling the blackspot road funding would be fantastic.
Reducing the tax burden on small businesses is another key to generating jobs in South Australia, which is what is vital to this state. Driverless cars are off in the future, as we mentioned. Companies like Honda and the like are saying 2030 and beyond, but we have a jobs crisis now in South Australia and we need to know how driverless cars are going to generate jobs tomorrow, like I said, for my neighbour, for my cousin and for my friends. People in our electorates need jobs in South Australia, because South Australia is falling so far behind.
We had the Driverless Car Conference here a few weeks back and there was a lot of talk and a lot of show and tell, but everyone is still asking: where are the jobs? They are also asking about the kangaroo, of course. It was unfortunate for the minister for that to happen in road testing some of this technology, and it was not ready. The look on his face was priceless, and even he can have a laugh about it. I understand it was a chuckle but the car was hurtling towards the rubber kangaroo and no-one was putting their foot on the brakes. Unfortunately, the rubber kangaroo could not hop and it was skittled like there was no tomorrow. Perhaps the job is as an undertaker for kangaroos. I do not know. That might be where the jobs are going to come from. It was incredibly unfortunate.
More unfortunate, and it has not been widely talked about in public—we do not want to set this industry back because we know the whole rubber kangaroo being run over incident has done a little bit of damage—but there was another incident that was not caught on camera where a car reversed over the small infant child rubber dummy. It was incredibly unfortunate to have those two incidents happen during the trial. I know the minister can, in good spirits, have a smile on his face, but it was unfortunate, it was a big setback and not ideal for what we were looking for in taking this industry forward.
We are very keen to see where the jobs are going to come from. As we said, there has been lots of talk, lots of show and tell, but the real concern is: where are the jobs going to come from? We also had a European car manufacturer come over and showcase its wares. We saw what the universities had to offer and the great work they have been doing. Again, it is work they have been doing for a number of years now, long before the Premier jumped on the bandwagon with his big bold promise that was going to knock everyone's socks off at the start of the year. None of this is new, this is work that has been done for a while and it was showcased, as we said, during the driverless car conference.
I did mention the European company that came over. Volvo, of course, had a car trial on the Southern Expressway, and I thank the minister for getting me an invite along to that. It was nice to go and see. Interestingly, one of the cars had very similar features to what I currently have in my Commodore, which are some sensors that detect cars in the side mirror. If you indicate to change lanes those little sensors will flash to alert you that they have picked up someone in your side mirror.
There is cruise control, of course. That was the key feature and the key difference of this next step in autonomous cars. Cruise control has been around for a long time, it was, perhaps, phase 1 of autonomous cars; it was developed a number of years ago. The car that was showcased could actually sense the car in front of it, so it is almost cruise control in reverse. With cruise control we can set it to a constant driving speed; this one allowed you to back off and brake a little bit with vehicles in front of you. It was lovely to see.
It was disappointing that we did not have a Tesla car here or a Google car or even the Carnegie Mellon University car, which I know is in the states, I think it is a Cadillac, if my memory serves me correct. It would have been nice to see some of the other technologies. There is a great concern with this, and again with Volvo coming here. It was fantastic and lovely for everyone to see, with some really nice pictures for the TV news, but how much are they actually going to divulge? How much information will they really give out? These are car manufacturers. It is a big business, with big money. They are not going to share too much of that technology or too much of that talk within the industry, if you like, because they will want to keep and protect it for themselves. So, how is the advancement happening? How is South Australia benefitting in jobs in the short term from making this happen right here and right now? That is the big concern. That is what people want to see.
I did mention one company that has been in this space in South Australia, and they have been doing it for a long time. The government has sided with them now and they are doing some wonderful work. They have been doing it for a long time, as I pointed out, way before the government made its announcement at the start of this year that was going to knock everyone's socks off; that is, Cohda Wireless, a great South Australian company. Its CEO is Dr Paul Gray and he does a very good job. Their work is very much in this space. Just recently they were in Bordeaux, France, where they were showing off at the ITS world conference. The ITS world conference is going to be held next year (2016) in Melbourne, so that is very exciting for the people of Victoria.
Dr Gray and the Cohda Wireless team were able to showcase this to the Deputy Premier, Mr Warren Truss. It was very exciting to see the work they have been doing. As I mentioned, they have been working in this space for a long time. Their current work is V2X-Radar, which is almost a way to detect things that are around the area, things that are actually around a corner, the car can be aware of everything that is in its vicinity. It is quite amazing stuff. The work these guys have done is fantastic, and we see that as a growing industry. Again, they were doing it well before the conference and we want to see them doing it off and into the future; they are established and they are there.
How this is going to generate more jobs for people and more companies like this, we are still yet to see. The government has not put up a plan, it has not said, 'This is how many jobs we are going to create. This is what we are going to do. This is where the future lies for that.' Cohda Wireless is a great South Australian company doing wonderful things and we commend them for the work they are doing in this space.
Interestingly, I have been speaking with other stakeholders about the opportunities that may or may not come from this legislation. We are keen for any opportunity to bring jobs to South Australia, especially in the short term given that our state is travelling so poorly on the unemployment rate. As I mentioned earlier, it is 7.5 per cent; Tasmania is at 6.5 per cent. It makes you shudder a little bit and you probably feel like a rubber kangaroo with a car bearing down on you when you think about that figure. How we are going economically in this state is really quite ordinary.
I spoke to a couple of people from the Centre for Automotive Safety Research, including Jeremy Woolley. He had the concern I had about Volvo and other companies coming here and having the ability to trial—and with this legislation it will great to have them come here and trial—but there is every likelihood they will come, they will trial and take their learnings back overseas and there will be no benefit here for us in South Australia.
We mentioned the fact that these companies are very secretive. It is a big money business, they have a lot invested in it, so to come along and do their testing and get their research done is not the sort of situation where they are going to say, 'Here you go, here are our findings, this is the way forward, this is where you can advance this.' They are going to keep this information to themselves because the intellectual property on this is very valuable. As far as I am aware we are not charging them to come here in any way, so there is no financial gain that way. They are just going to come, do their work and, as Jeremy Woolley points out, there is the concern they will come, do their work and just take their findings away and there will be no benefit and no upside for South Australia.
We also look at what the future holds and where this driverless car technology might go. One of the other concerns for a lot of people in South Australia relates to what I have talked about where vehicles talk to vehicles, vehicles talk to infrastructure and vehicles talk to external factors—dogs and prams and the like—and how we get that communication working. The reason we support this legislation is that we hope it can go towards doing this, but again it is seen to be very much a long-term project from the point of view that we need to get a fleet changeover. How long will that actually take? It is not like you can turn around tomorrow and say that every car is now an advanced car. People cannot afford that. You cannot just change over your car willy-nilly.
Even things like autonomous emergency braking, which is fundamentally what we saw on the Volvo car when it was here, and some work has been done, as far as getting cars to replace the fleet and getting cars up to speed with this, it would take maybe 20 to 25 years before 50 per cent of the fleet of light vehicles could be turned over and have this sort of technology. It is suggested even somewhere near 2050 for 100 per cent of the fleet vehicles to be turned over. That is just one example of bringing in this technology. It gets phased in. People are talking about autonomous cars or driverless cars and pictures of Jetsons vehicles flying around, and no doubt that is the longheld view to be happening in 30 to 50 years whatever the case might be, but it is small increments and advancements that are going to happen along the way.
I mentioned how the autonomous emergency braking may be one of the next steps to a slight advancement on cruise control as we pointed out. If that is to roll out gradually into a fleet, it will take time but, as these advancements in technology happen and roll out, one car will have it, one car will not have it. How are they going to go working together in this context? It is going to be very easy to see how there is a concern, and we know that fleet changeover will take a very long time.
Another interesting thing that came out of this when speaking to a number of stakeholders—and some were very intrigued and had a wry smile on their face—was not long after the announcement of this driverless car initiative was put forward, it was at a time when more economic figures were coming out about how bad this state was going. The government was looking for a distraction, the minister also came out and talked about trams. We have had talks about trams to Norwood, trams to the airport, trams north and south, trams to Unley; the Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan has trams going everywhere. There were billboards up at election time that had trams running every which way. There has been no budgeting for them and no money put forward for them but the government is still talking about this.
People raise with me that, if we are going down this driverless vehicle path, why would you lay down tracks when you can have the vehicles going remotely or autonomously and they could be driving and picking up people all the time? It is an interesting concept and one that needs further exploration. I look forward to the minister explaining which way we are going to go—whether the trams are the better proposal that he is putting forward and where the money is for that, or whether driverless vehicles can actually move into this space and whether we really are serious about driverless vehicles and are going to move into that space instead—because that is something that needs to be talked about a little bit more.
It was interesting the number of people who were involved with the Driverless Car Conference who had grave questions about this. We know that the autonomous vehicles can roll into heavy vehicles as well. Where does that sit, and where does that leave trains, trams, buses and rail links as far as autonomous vehicles are concerned?. I am interested to hear what the minister has to say about those things, how they will work together and what their budgeted plan is for them over the future.
As far as the legislation itself is concerned, a few concerns were raised with me, and I fleetingly mentioned these to the minister and his office. One of the big concerns that came forward was about public liability. As we look through the amendments to the bill, we can see that there is no liability figure mentioned. It was pointed out that it might be adopted in the guidelines, so I am really keen for the minister to perhaps answer that question about how the liability figure will be worked out on each individual trial, while perhaps a number has not been put there to ensure the safety of people involved; and how long before the Gazette is published will these guidelines need to be put in place around liability and the like?
The other concern that was raised was around insurance. Through the bill there are manners and ways that the insurance will be put in place, and any company that is looking to trial a driverless vehicle will have to have the appropriate liability insurance and third-party insurance as well. However, what about checks and balances on the actual insurance company to make sure that they are fully covered and that, heaven forbid, should anything go wrong, there is the adequate cover to make sure that people in the vicinity are covered? I am interested to hear what the minister has to say about that.
I know there is a concern that, if they put a liability figure in print, or they put it down, that that may deter some people from investing their time in trialling cars in South Australia, so I am keen to see how that is going to get ticked off, and the minister will no doubt be able to respond shortly. The other thing with that which I am very keen to know and find out is when and which companies have looked and talked and started discussions—if any have—about potential trials, given that, again, it was talked about in January and we are now here in December and we are finally getting this through, which is a good thing even though the time has lagged somewhat.
Which companies are looking at it? Which companies are looking to take advantage of this legislation once it has passed, and what opportunities, again, more importantly, are there for South Australians as far as getting jobs? Getting jobs really is the key; that is what South Australians are talking about. It was mentioned very heavily in the paper over the weekend as people reported their thoughts on how South Australia is going. I stress personally that I have neighbours, friends and cousins who want jobs in South Australia and we know across the board we are travelling very poorly as a state and we need to get more jobs going.
We talked about what is going to happen in the future as well, and the minister has pointed out very clearly the changes to legislation, the changes that may well bring about driverless cars on our roads. Again, I go back to the Governor's speech (and this is on behalf of the Premier obviously), which stated 'my government will reform' both pieces of legislation to also legislate for driverless vehicles which will revolutionise transportation in South Australia.
That is referring to the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 and the Road Traffic Act. The interesting thing is that it talks about revolutionising transportation, and we are very aware with this piece of legislation that it is going to allow vehicles to be trialled on our roads. That is what is going to happen with this; this allows for trials. It was made very clear to me from correspondence with the minister's office and conversations that this is not legislation that will then roll out and be enacted as driverless vehicle legislation on our roads; this is purely and simply just about trialling the vehicles per se. It is not about setting up legislation that will take us forward having driverless vehicles on our roads. I acknowledge that a lot more work is needed to be done there with the minister, and I trust that he is working on that straightaway.
Across the board it is accepted that this work is going to be very challenging, and using the existing legal and regulatory framework is going to make unmanned autonomous vehicles and the legislation to allow them on our roads incredibly difficult, but we are supporting this legislation because it will take us another step closer to getting there.
A couple of other issues were raised with me as well. I know that some driverless buses were trialled in other parts of the world, and it was interesting that, when they took the driver out of the bus—there was no driver there because these vehicles could run on their own steam, on their own tracks, so to speak; they did not have anyone sitting behind the wheel—people would not use the bus; they did not feel comfortable getting on without a bus driver.
In the end it was so unsuccessful that they had to mount a steering wheel on the vehicle and get someone to sit in the chair. Even though they were not doing anything, people felt far more comfortable having a bus driver in that vehicle; and I am sure that is the work the minister is doing with the thousands of staff in the department. This is the sort of thing they will be doing because this is the sort of work that has to be worked through from a social perspective as we move towards this whenever it is going to happen—2030 or beyond, who knows.
This is the sort of work that has to be done so that we are in a position to know how this can work and how it can operate. I mentioned before the bringing together of driverless vehicles, or vehicles with some element of autonomy to them, working in with vehicles that are still manually driven. People still do like to drive. That is a real point that has resonated with me talking with a lot of stakeholders involved.
Driving is a very social thing. We have a very strong car culture here in South Australia. We have had the Formula One Grand Prix, of course, and the Clipsal 500. We have a lot of Holden and Ford fans out there, and the like. People do like to drive; it is very enjoyable. We have some lovely wide streets in South Australia, beautiful coastline, lovely hills and wineries, etc.
It is very enjoyable to get out and drive around, so over time one of the interesting facets to come out of this is how we actually get together and incorporate human-driven vehicles along with vehicles with far more automatic and autonomous-type features to them. Bringing them together is going to be very interesting, and a lot of the reports that I have read say that that is where the real challenge lies.
Again, I know that the minister will be working away feverishly on that with the department. When we do that and when we advance those systems—and I mentioned the vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure and the vehicle to external factors—as well as the technology and the great work that Cohda Wireless is doing, if we can find ways and means to generate jobs in that area that would be fantastic, but we need to do it now. That is the important thing. It is not something we can hold off for years and years down the track. We need jobs in South Australia right now, and the government needs to put some skin in the game to make that happen. We need to get jobs; it is absolutely imperative.
That brings me to another factor that ties in with this, and I have mentioned that in Pittsburgh a lot of companies have really used that as a hub and as a base. I know that the universities over there have produced some outstanding graduates and they have gone on to help and to work with companies like Google, and the minister has had a look at Google.
Uber is a really interesting one to look at as far as a case study is concerned. We have heard about Uber and we have talked about Uber. The minister has been reluctant to deal with Uber and to talk with it about its model and about its concept, but given that the government has brought up the conversation about future transport and what there is down the track, Uber is a really good case in point to look at to see what opportunities there are.
The Uber business model is about advancing transport, and at the moment it wants to use people's personal vehicles and other vehicles to deliver people where they need to go through the use of an application on their phone. Most people have read about that and are aware of that, and I know that Uber is trying to speak to the government to see how it can facilitate that.
What the long-term plan is going to be—and no doubt the government is aware of this, and this is what a lot of transport companies are looking at—is how they can work this driverless technology in with their app. The government is trying to be visionary, so no doubt if it is doing that it would have looked at this aspect, and the vision is that eventually—30, 40, 50 years down the track—driverless vehicles will be available. You will use an app and you will be able to get a vehicle to come and pick you up, and think of the benefits that might have socially. That is taking car parks off the street, allowing vehicles to flow more freely and have more efficiency in the system because efficiency is good in this case. It means that you do not drive your vehicle to work, park in the car park and then drive your vehicle home at the end of the day. The vehicle can be utilised right throughout the day, and you just order your vehicle as you need it.
The concepts, you can see, are quite mind-boggling as to what can happen, and Uber is really in this space. It is disappointing to hear that the government is not talking to them about how this can evolve and unfold and whether there are jobs there now working in this space. With a vision to where it might be in the future, the government really has to have a very solid look at this. They cannot say in one breath that they want to be in this advanced industry and working forward in years to come and then in another breath not deal with what is before us right here and now.
Uber really is working at investing a lot of money in this technology space. They are a company worth $51 billion, and they are looking at this long-term picture as well. It is a group I think the government should be sitting down and talking with and looking at future plans. If you are looking at these big long-term plans, where is it going to go, what options are there and how can we benefit from this in the long-term? A lot of people out there I know are disappointed that the government is not even having conversations with Uber about what it might be.
They are talking about driverless cars, as we said, and even the reports from the people from Honda, who have been working in this space for a long, long time, say that 2030 and beyond is when we are going to see this technology. They are talking about futuristic technology, but they are not dealing with a company that is right here right now in the transport space and putting forward options and plans that could well benefit our state and all the people in South Australia with a view to facilitating this long-term driverless program they are initiating and pushing and trying to knock our socks off with, as the Premier said in the Governor's speech at the start of the year.
Uber is a company with a lot of money. They want to develop this driverless car technology. If we are serious about getting in the driverless car space, I am really intrigued to know why the government will not sit down and talk to Uber to see what opportunities exist and if they can work with them. Given the passing of this legislation, is there a chance that they can bring some of their driverless car advancements to South Australia that can generate jobs for us now?
Uber has done a lot of work, and I know a lot of these companies out of Pittsburgh have done a lot of work, and they are in a very advanced state. We have seen what Volvo has done, we know that Tesla is in a very advanced state with this as well, and a number of other companies are in a very strong position to be taking this forward. What we saw during the driverless car conference was just a taste, as a lot of these cars are well advanced. As I mentioned, Honda has great componentry and designs.
Realistically, many of the experts in the field feel that the driverless element is there and has evolved but that it is in the other areas where potentially there are options. We want to see the government come out and say, 'Here are the options. This is where the jobs are. This is where we can create more jobs for South Australia,' and I say that because of a recent Senate report. The Economic References Committee met in Adelaide at the start of October and ran through a lot of the driverless car conversations and looked at what options there were, what things could work and the options for South Australia—and Australia, for that matter—as far as this industry is concerned.
Across the board, the issue of liability was raised and talked about, as were a number of other matters. Interestingly, Senator Xenophon asked the managing director of Volvo, Mr McCann, whether South Australia should have been in this space many years ago. With the closing down of Holden in South Australia, and with the car manufacturing industry across the nation closing down, Mr Xenophon put to the people of Volvo whether we should have been in this space earlier and whether there could have been a transformation from the manufacturing side to the technological side. The sentiment was, yes, that if we wanted to be in that space we probably needed to be there a long time ago.
Senator Xenophon also asked whether, with Volvo coming out for this conference, there was an opportunity for South Australia to set up as a centre or hub that could produce these cars with this technology for Volvo. The answer was clearly, no, that the economy of scale just did not allow it, and that was disappointing. Again, we stress to the government that we want to know where the jobs are going to come from with this technology, and when they are going to be on offer for people, because people in South Australia need jobs now.
The issue of trains that I mentioned a few moments ago was also brought up, and it was a question asked at the Senate inquiry. It is a very fair and valid question to be asked, given that if you could make vehicles and trucks driverless we could save quite a bit of money, especially when you think of a truck and the space taken up in the cabin for the driver. We also talk about fatigue laws and those sorts of things that dovetail in with truck driving.
If you do not have a driver, of course, all of a sudden these vehicles can run 24/7 because they are not restricted by any of these laws, so we can get far more efficiencies out of them and the scope is very much open. When will it happen? Another issue raised and considered was that if we did go to driverless how many jobs could potentially be lost in the end. That is something I know the minister will be looking at and working through in relation to planning and legislation for future years to come.
They also asked how people will change their mindset, and I know that the minister has had a look at this. Driving down the road and seeing a car driving alongside without a driver is going to be quite intimidating, and the stickybeak factor would have a very big impact right from the outset, with people being distracted from their task of driving on the road. If you were in a conventional car and operating all the sticks and levers as you normally would, looking to the side and seeing someone perhaps reading a newspaper, or seeing no-one in the car at all, would be very distracting and could cause problems in itself. Again, that is stuff the department is no doubt looking at as far as future legislation is concerned.
Most of the conversation about driverless cars has been around driving in the city and not a lot of talk has been about driving on rural roads. Questions were asked at the Senate committee about trials that have been done on unsealed roads. It was indicated that not a lot of work had been done in that area, so that is something else we are very keen to see progressed. We can see that has a lot of upside and that it is more feasible, but what about driving in the country, which does not have the same infrastructure as the city as far as our population basis is concerned?
I think a few people were asked whether or not they would buy a vehicle without a steering wheel and, again, that is one of those social aspects that needs to be examined. It needs to be questioned whether people will feel comfortable enough to do that, but only time will tell, and I am sure that more work is being done by the department in that area.
There has also been a lot of talk about the loss of jobs. I do not mean to harp on about this, but the most important thing in South Australia at the moment is jobs for people out there right now. There are people who do not have jobs right now who are heading into Christmas and do not have employment. They want employment, they want an opportunity, and we need to be doing everything we can to generate that opportunity for people in South Australia. The number that was talked about by this committee, and thrown around in the Bracks report by Professor John Spoehr, is 200,000 job losses across the country by the end of 2017. It has been referred to as 'a tsunami of job losses', and South Australia will feel it as well.
The question is: when will driverless cars potentially be able to provide more employment opportunities? When will it happen? I think the figure that came from this report was that it would be a decade at the earliest, which drives me back to my question: how are jobs going to come and come now for the people who really need them? I mentioned that the managing director of Volvo Australia, Mr McCann, said there was not an opportunity to build cars in South Australia even with this advanced technology. He said that it was not on the cards but that in Australia it was more an opportunity for sales marketing than future production. That is disappointing for South Australians. I know we would have liked more, but that is the way it is according to the managing director of Volvo.
The figure the government has bandied around as far as the driverless car industry is concerned is that it is a $90 billion industry in 15 years' time, and that is a really great figure. What has not been drilled down, again, is how many jobs will be created from that. A lot of people have asked that question, and we are here asking that question once more. Where will the jobs come from? That $90 billion figure has been used a number of times and that is what the industry is supposedly worth but, also, what will the industry cost? Again, if we do not have people driving cars, trucks and buses, how many jobs will be lost? It will be a $90 billion global industry: what will it mean to South Australia and when will the jobs come? That is one of the really big questions.
There were a number of really interesting findings that came out of that report and I could go on but it is there for anyone to read. Fundamentally, the figure around jobs came from the Senate report, from conversations I have had with people around the industry and from people I speak with on the street. The government came out and said in the Governor's speech that they are going to look at time zones and driverless cars, and all these things, but where are the jobs going to come from in the long run? How are those factors going to bring jobs to South Australians? That is what people want to know. That is what it really boils down to.
Again, the concept of driverless cars is fantastic but when will it bring a job to the South Australian people? When will it bring a job to my neighbour, my friend and my cousin who lives around the corner? These people need jobs and they need them now. Driverless cars, as I said, beyond 2030 is very much an upside and that is positive in the long term but what about now? Where are the jobs going to come from? We do not want to see South Australia left behind. That is absolutely imperative. South Australia needs to lift itself from the bottom of the ladder. We need to get the economy moving in South Australia and we need to generate jobs for those people out there looking for them. We have a jobs crisis in South Australia now and this government needs to stop the expensive PR stunts and generate jobs for South Australians.