by Tanya Westthorp
MOTORISTS who continue to drive their own vehicle instead of opting for driverless cars could be slapped with a 'human-controlled car' tax in the future, says a top executive at one of the globe's biggest car manufacturers.
The driverless car revolution has been a hot topic among motor company executives and experts at the world's biggest tech show - CES - in Las Vegas this week with the future of car ownership also under the microscope.
Experts say 'smart' driverless cars will likely be connected by internet to other vehicles and infrastructure like traffic lights in a large scale open-platform network - reducing human error crashes and acting quickly to re-route traffic when dramas pop up.
It'll mean our roads could resemble the futuristic scenes you see in movies where unmanned cars zip around in gently flowing traffic past synchronised lights compared to the ad hoc reality of the current system.
General Motors vice president of strategy Michael Abelson said cities may declare 'driverless vehicle-only' districts in a bid to implement a seamless, connected driverless car network without the disruption and unpredictability of manually driven cars.
In explaining the critical importance of creating a connected transport network where all vehicles operate in sync and talk to each other, he said drivers who continue to get behind the wheel may face congestion charges in those areas.
"We need to consider autonomous districts where the only cars in that district are driverless … you'll see the subject of congestion-charges come up," he said.
"As long as most vehicles on the road have drivers, I don't think we'll have improvement (in the rollout of driverless cars)."
Owning a car may also become a thing of the past with cities potentially rolling out 'driverless car fleets' hired out on a subscription-model similar to Netflix.
"You have a vehicle subscription service, automotive retail and financing may be no longer, instead you just subscribe like Netflix," David Liniado from Cox Automotive said during a panel discussion.
"Ownership might not be individuals, it might be a manufacturer.
"It gives flexibility, part of the time you might need a mini-van, other times you might need a shuttle, we'll move away from 'ownership' to 'usage'."
General Motors is already looking to deploy a ride-sharing driverless vehicle fleet into large cities and will start large-scale production of the cars in 2019.
It comes as Ford Executive Vice President and President of Mobility Marcy Klevorn used a keynote address at CES to explain the motoring giant's plan for a cloud-based open-platform driverless car network where vehicles and infrastructure work in tandem to control traffic flow and bust congestion by automatically diverting traffic away from accidents, construction sites and major events.
Tanya Westthorp travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Samsung