I've just heard a fascinating piece on the radio, an interview with Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at Stanford Centers for Automotive Research and Internet and Society, looking at developments in driverless car technology.
It seems that driverless cars are "just around the corner" and are set to make as big a change to our roads as automation has already done for air transport. Imagine your car drops you off at the shops or office then goes away and parks itself until you are ready. Or even public cars that you hail when you need them.
Perhaps the best thing about the automation is that the cars could make much better use of our existing roads, narrower lanes, less distance between cars, no rubbernecking, automatic diversions, the list just goes on. That's apart from the driver being able to do something useful rather than drive.
There are several reasonable arguments in favour of public transport for our cities but these are based on the problems of congestion, pollution, parking. A problem however with public transport in a sparcely populated country like ours even in the cities is that we don't have the scale of demand to offer frequent enough schedules or an adequate diverity of routes to meet the underlying demand. In other words not enough people what to travel the same routes at the same times to make public transport economic without some form of subsidy.
If the problems inherent in roads can be resolved by hybrid fuels and driverless technology then why would we not use cars rather than expensive and underutilised public transport.
So why are the Auckland Council are thinking of a 3.5km rail loop at a cost of $2.5 BILLION that will probably be redundant before it's finished?