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NTRTA hoses down autonomous trucks concern

Bilato takes on unfounded worries that roadside businesses are doomed


While autonomous vehicle test announcements have emerged in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, concern about the development’s impact has taken an unhelpful turn in the Northern Territory.

Mainstream media reports have raised doubts about the future of “wayside inns, petrol stations, motels and other businesses catering for drivers” due to automation.

Northern Territory Road Transport Association executive officer Louise Bilato tells ATN she believes several issues and impediments in the way of any doomsday scenario and automation of vehicles and facilities such as abattoirs are a long way off for the NT and are unlikely ever to happen entirely.

For Bilato, “there [is] no likelihood the Northern Territory’s wayside inns would be significantly impacted in the foreseeable future by driverless trucks, especially in light of the increasing number of baby boomers retiring and hitting the highways”.

Meanwhile, there is “much to do to upgrade our road infrastructure if they were ever to be made suitable for autonomous heavy vehicles”.

“There may be road networks on the eastern seaboard where driverless vehicles might well be very attractive, such as at Port Botany, at an earlier point than in the NT,” Bilato says.

But there are more important basic infrastructure improvements that need attention and completion.

“Remote Australia’s highest priority remains bitumining more of our freight network and improving communications,” Bilato says.

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