Autonomous transport coming?

Technological advancements may mean vehicles and airports of the future will be automated

Photo: Norbert Aepli / Wikimedia Commons Nissan autonomous car prototype (using a Nissan Leaf electric car) exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show 2014.

Photo: Norbert Aepli / Wikimedia Commons
Nissan autonomous car prototype (using a Nissan Leaf electric car) exhibited at the Geneva Motor Show 2014.

Michael Sandelson
The Foreigner

“The technology is there, which means it’s possible. We’ve done a feasibility study looking at state-of-the-art automation within the agricultural, air, maritime, vehicle, and military sectors,” senior SINTEF research scientist Dr. Gunnar Deinboll Jenssen tells The Foreigner.

Moreover, the two regional airports of Røst and Værøy in northern Norway’s Nordland County have been used as test facilities for remotely-operated control towers, which were handled from a center in Oslo.

According to Jenssen at the Trondheim-based research company, the Ministry of Transport and Communications is to increase the number following this successful trial.

“Autonomous winter maintenance vehicles for airports, and eventually roads, will also be coming, though this is still out to tender internationally,” he says. “No decision has been made on which solution to use, but the vehicles would deploy both laser guidance and zero-vision systems. The latter maps a 360-degree 3D image.”

Advanced taxi
In other advancements, driver-on-demand taxi service Uber has recently partnered with Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh.

The aim is for CMU faculty, staff, students, and Uber technology personnel to conduct research and development, primarily within mapping, vehicle safety, and autonomy technology, according to the statement.

Website reports that self-driving taxis will be built at this robotics research facility. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has already said that he would replace drivers with self-driving cars, a prototype of which Google unveiled last year.

“The reason Uber could be expensive is you’re paying for the other dude in the car. When there is no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere is cheaper,” Kalanick told Business Insider.

Reduced costs
A report by the International Transport Forum has found that eliminating 90 percent of vehicles on the road by using self-driving cars will transform cities. This would slash commuting times and open up acres of land.

In their investigations, scientists at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) examined data on actual car trips in Lisbon, Portugal.

It showed that a fleet of self-driving “TaxiBots” combined with high-capacity public transport could render nine out of 10 cars in a mid-sized European city redundant.

“For small and medium-sized cities, it is conceivable that a shared fleet of self-driving vehicles could completely obviate the need for traditional public transport,” the scientists state.

The report’s authors also conclude that this would eliminate much of a city’s need for parking, which may reduce the price of retail goods by about 1 percent if removed.

Parking spaces increase construction costs, meaning consumers have to foot the bill in the form of increased prices on rent and retail goods.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit

It also appeared in the May 8, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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