KPMG has published an interesting take on what policy changes need to be in place for the rise of autonomous or driverless vehicles. Given that so many enterprises are working on this technology, KPMG feels that this will be the car of choice within twenty years.

Realizing that such a dramatic and drastic change in driverless technology will mean a reboot in policy at all levels of government, KPMG has identified five areas where there are major policy ramifications. These are:

1.Transport Infrastructure Investment-Since decisions on public investment are based upon cost benefit analysis, driverless cars are a certainty in the future. Because of that, financial analysis of transportation projects today should be factoring in the use of driverless cars. It is suggested that with no need for crash barriers, lanes could also be closer together, with significant less cost for roads, and use of land.

2. If in a driverless world there is no need for driver’s licenses, there are implications for countries that have dual licenses, for example, British Columbia where the license is also the Medical Services Plan card.  Other countries use the driver’s license as a citizenship card. Time will be needed to separate the systems apart. Traffic regulations will need to change to reflect driverless technology standards. Vehicle registration may form a basis of raising revenue for the use of a driverless car.

3.Revenue-Driverless cars still need roads and there will be investment in digital technology for the vehicle’s bandwidth and for communication to other vehicles.Government may want to create the control centres for these vehicles and not leave it to the private sector, providing a usage tax to replace gasoline tax revenue.

4.Spatial Planning-Having access to a vehicle without owning it means more accessibility and universality in usage, with more vehicle miles being travelled and higher usage of vehicles.Street widths can be narrower and KPMG suggests that there is no need to use sidewalks and curbs to separate pedestrians from the technology.With no need for garages or parking lots or on street parking, this could mean a revamping of land use on a scale not seen since the introduction of the car.

5. Security-There will need to be a protocol to ensure that the systems cannot fail, nor can they be undermined by malicious intent.With falling accident rates and little fatalities, the insurance companies will need to refocus their businesses. Personal data associated with the use of these vehicles will also need to be secured in a way that can access the payment systems in the cars, but still be confidential.

KPMG sees this time as an opportunity for policy makers to commence the thinking of how best to maximize efficiency and revenues with a technology that will have great social and economic ramifications. It will be curious to see in a few decades whether their perceived policy direction forecasts were accurate.