Self-driving cars could be hitting our roads in as little as two years, once European manufacturers start bringing them to market, Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.
He went on to say he "wouldn't be surprised that if in the next two or three years ... there will be those who try to bring them to New Zealand, and good on them...That will be something we need to be ready for."
Alexander Dobrindt, the German Federal Minister of Transport has predicted the technology would start rolling off German assembly lines as soon as 2017. Audi, BMW and Google are among those developing the technology.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges says widespread use of self-driving cars in New Zealand was still some way off, as Kiwis would be "technology takers" rather than developers.
Taxi-Bots and Auto-Vots
The International Transport Forum - a global think-tank for transport policy - unveiled the results of a major study into the impact of self-driving cars at its summit last month.
It discovered that a fleet of self-driving shared cars could make 90 per cent of conventional cars in a mid-sized city superfluous. Researchers used actual transport data from Lisbon, Portugal to model the impact of two types of self-driving cars: those shared simultaneously by several passengers, dubbed TaxiBots, and those that pick-up and drop-off single passengers, known as AutoVots.
It found that a large-scale uptake of TaxiBots, in conjunction with high-capacity public transport, would remove nine out of every ten cars from the road without hindering people's mobility.
They never get drunk, they never get tired
Sarah Hunter, head of public policy at Google's technology development facility Google[x], said the world was on the cusp of having cars and planes that required no interaction from humans at all, apart from inputting a destination.
"It can take you from A to B without you ever being involved. In fact, it's so autonomous, it doesn't require a steering wheel or brake." Such vehicles would dramatically reduce the number of road accidents, which statistics showed were 94 per cent down to human error.
Self-driving cars would also improve the quality of life for many, including the blind and elderly who cannot drive. And what difference would it make to our productivity, and day-to-day stress when we don't have to sit in traffic for two hours a day?