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Minister briefing - change is coming

Posted on 07 December, 2017

The NZTA have just published their Ministry of Transport and Transport Sector briefing documents designed for the incoming Ministers. If there is a change of government or an appointment of a new Minister, a briefing document is written to help the incoming Ministers understand the key issues faced by their respective portfolios. The Transport briefing underpins initial discussions between the Minister and the MoT’s management and Board. It also provides fantastic insight as to what issues the motor industry may face in the upcoming years. As Peter Mersi, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Transport, makes apparent in the document, new technologies are transforming the world around us. The number of electric vehicles, EVs, are on the rise. New business models are being developed by the motor industry as vehicles become smarter, safer and increasingly automated. “The combination of new technologies, increasing movements of people and freight, road safety concerns, and environmental pressures will drive many changes,” says Peter Mersi. “While the transport sector as a whole is changing, the basic needs for transport won’t change any time soon.” The briefing has identified key strategic challenges and opportunities for transport over both the next few years and the decades ahead. Transport sector is undergoing rapid technological change Our transport system will become increasingly connected, automated, shared and electric. “The transport sector is going through an unprecedented period of innovation in vehicles, infrastructure, and services. Transport could be at the forefront of a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – a fusion of the physical and digital worlds that is transforming how people live and work,” says the document. In terms of the motor-industry, the document states that most car makers will be developing new business models to sell ‘mobility as a service’ instead of just selling vehicles. “Fully autonomous vehicles, when they become widely available, are more likely to be operated as shared fleets instead of all individually-owned, making travel cheaper and more convenient, while requiring less infrastructure.” Even though fully-autonomous vehicles are expected to be much safer there’s a while to wait until this technology is completely developed. “The greatest technological safety benefits are likely to come from advanced driver-assistance systems such as automated emergency braking and collision avoidance systems. Connected vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies could also assist people to drive more safely, providing drivers with real-time information about road risks, speed limits, and current road conditions.” The document also notes that New Zealanders’ will have to be willing to jump onto the technological bandwagon. “Attitudes towards new transport technologies and services will also affect the speed of any transitions. New Zealanders are often quick to embrace new technologies, but also tend to prefer buying used vehicles. The average age of motorised vehicles in New Zealand is 14 years old. The widespread availability of shared vehicle fleets could accelerate the modernisation of vehicles, but only if attitudes towards vehicle ownership also change.” Transport will be key to reaching climate change goals New Zealand is committed under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Transport emissions have increased by 78 per cent since 1990 according to the latest national report from the Ministry of The Environment and Statistics New Zealand.  The increasing vehicle movements are associated with growth in our population, tourism, and exports. It also reflects changing consumer preferences towards purchasing vehicles with larger engines. “Widespread adoption of electric cars and other light vehicles would make the largest impact on transport emissions to 2030.” “The slow turnover of New Zealand’s vehicle fleet may temper the speed of the transition to electric vehicles. We have one of the oldest vehicle fleets among developed nations. They are likely to wait until cheaper second-hand electric vehicles are available.” The main barrier to the New Zealander’s buying EVs is the lack of confidence in the infrastructure, battery range and the upfront cost of new vehicles. High private car use “New Zealanders travel in many different ways, but the most common method is by private car. Almost 80 percent of household trips are made by car.” “Over the last twenty years car use has grown, while the share of trips made by walking, cycling, and public transport has fallen. Even for short trips of two kilometres or less, which represent a third of vehicle trips, people use cars over 75 percent of the time.” “New Zealand’s vehicle fleet has grown significantly since 2000, increasing almost 50 percent. New car sales hit a record in 2016, and we are on track to exceed this in 2017. We now have one of the highest car ownership rates in the world. Approximately 60 percent of cars added to the fleet each year are imported used vehicles.” To encourage a shift in travel modes, the document states that New Zealand needs to invest in making alternatives to private car use more compelling. “Vehicle-sharing and ride-sharing could become more popular, with people using smartphones and Mobility as a Service platforms to organise and pay for trips. However, it is unclear how readily New Zealanders will embrace these forms of shared transport,” said Mersi.  To read the full briefing document click here.