Amy is the head of news for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Opinion: Driverless cars could benefit many

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A Volvo autonomous vehicle on display in Tauranga. Photo/Andrew Warner
A Volvo autonomous vehicle on display in Tauranga. Photo/Andrew Warner

Driverless cars - who would have thought that would ever be a possibility let alone a reality.

On Friday, Transport Minister Simon Bridges got to test one out on the Tauranga Eastern Link.

The model on display did still require a driver to be behind the wheel but future models are expected to be fully autonomous.

While it will be many years before they are common place on our roads, it is feasible it could be in my lifetime.

I have previously been critical of the idea of driverless cars, and in truth I am still slightly sceptical about just how safe they are, but I am beginning to see the positives.

They need to be well-tested and proven safe before they are allowed on our roads without a driver behind the wheel but if the technology stacks up there could be huge benefits.

Mr Bridges said the autonomous cars could improve efficiency on the roads, meaning cars could drive closer and potentially faster. In other words, they could reduce traffic.

He also said they could help reduce the road toll.

To me, one of the biggest benefits would be the mobility and freedom it would give the elderly.

In a country so reliant on cars, being told you can no longer drive can be devastating for many.

Our public transport system in New Zealand leaves a lot to be desired. On top of that, many elderly people are not able to walk the distance required to get to the closest stop.

A driverless car may be just what is needed to allow the elderly to retain their independence.

And it would not just be the elderly. Those who are not allowed or able to drive because of medical conditions or physical impairments would also benefit.

The idea of a car without a driver is still one that makes me nervous but with technology advancing as fast as it is, I believe it is an idea worth pursuing seriously.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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