Prime Site: Property industry grapples with coming of ‘carmaggedon’

Chris Herde The Courier Mail Friday, November 11 2016

THEY may be in the realm of science fiction for some people but self-driving cars or rather autonomous vehicles (AV) are coming to Australia, and we better be prepared.

A leading player in preparing for what some have called “carmageddon” will be the property sector, which is now starting to grapple with the new technology’s infrastructure demands.

MacroPlan Dimasi founder and executive chairman Brian Haratsis, who analysed the impact of driverless cars and other issues in his recent book Destructive Cities, believes AVs should begin appearing on our roads by the next decade.

“It’s an inevitable industry but compared to overseas, we don’t have a real process at the moment to develop an industry structure,” he said.

“They are likely to be introduced here slower than faster ... but they’re something we need to prepare for.”

According to an Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative position paper he has authored, Mr Haratsis said AV take up rates will be between 2 per cent and 5 per cent in 2021-2025, 15 per cent and 30 per cent by 2026-2036 and three decades later, be at 100 per cent.

Some will really embrace the new technology, with Uber predicting its fleet will be all AVs by 2030 and many car manufacturers are also making similar suggestions.

Regardless of how fast the take up will be, most of the property industry and city planners who traditionally take the long-term view, have AVs firmly on their agendas.

Mr Haratsis said the greatest impact on commercial property will be car parking.

Leading shopping centres in Australia are now starting to look at adapting their car parks for driverless vehicles.

With a likely scenario of the shopper leaving the vehicle at a drop-off zone and using an app to park it and then to get into the car at a pick-up zone, it eliminates the need for space between cars while stacking is a viable alternative.

Mr Haratsis said for shopping centres it will mean a radical reworking of space, with owners either reducing their car parking space or squeezing a lot more cars into the same area.

Owners of new and old office towers in the CBD will also have to rework their relationships with cars.

Mr Haratsis said he expects that after 2035 AVs will offer a back-to-base service with driverless cars taking workers to their offices, then return to base and then pick them up and taking them home.

“But you’re back-to-base might not be home but car parks or garages in industrial areas – a third party location,” he said.

So traditional car berths in office towers will have other uses.

But it is not just about finding a park, the ripple effects of AVs will require the entire real estate industry to undergo a radical change because you can eat, drink, read, sleep and work while getting to your destination, and also get your car to pick you up.

Anything to do with a car from where you want to live and how you work, where you will fuel your car, where you will buy your fast food and more will need a rethink and that affects bricks and mortar.

But Mr Haratsis said far from the so called carmageddon, the new technology represents a huge opportunity for all industries if Australia embraces the new technology.

“We need to take a whole of industry approach to this and if we want to capture all the commercial property outcomes we want, Australia has to be an early adopter,” he said.

“Why do we want to do that? Because we want to be able to own the technologies and licence our technologies internationally rather than us buy all out technologies from overseas.”


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