Month: December 2013

Micro Cars and Driver-less Automated Cars – the Answer?

The short answer is no.


The medium answer is that they supplement the modes available to a city but not as a silver bullet solution 


The long answer, read below.


I noticed on Facebook this morning that Stuff has picked up Toa Greening push tomorrow at the Physical Infrastructure for this micro car as a solution to Auckland‘s road congestion issue.

From Stuff:

Are micro cars the way to go?


Are micro cars the answer to getting Auckland traffic moving?

Manurewa resident Toa Greening thinks so and is taking action to get the cars on the city’s motorways.

“Basically with these smaller vehicles you can solve traffic congestion,” he says.

Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency are spending billions of dollars on new roads but micro cars could help make better use of existing infrastructure, Mr Greening says.

The electric cars that seat one or two people could travel two per lane in a staggered formation like motorbikes, which would reduce congestion.

Research he discovered from Belgium shows people shifting from cars to motorbikes relieved congestion by 25 per cent.

“It’d be next to impossible to convince people to move to motorbikes here.

“If they got a small car that’s as safe as a normal car, it might have a chance.”

He hopes in the long-term either transport organisation will provide a $435 million loan for the purchase of 15,000 cars, which are manufactured in the United States.

The cars would be leased to commuters who drive in Auckland’s most congested spots, particularly around the central city.

Mr Greening will put his case to Auckland Council’s infrastructure committee tomorrow.

But in the meantime he’s hoping to attract some seed funding that would allow him to bring a few cars in for a trial




This idea is not new and is similar to the Google Driver-less Cars that have been touted as a solution to congestion problems in cities like Auckland.

The intention on both car options is good, what they are being promoted for is however, in my opinion is the wrong path.


Considerable investment into: mass transit, active transit networks, better urban planning and better urban design than what Auckland has currently (for the most part) is what will beat and “solve” Auckland’s chronic congestion in the long-term.

You will find that the investment I mentioned above will go a long way in freeing up the existing road and motorway network allowing the existing fleets to move around for freely and efficiently than now.


As for micro and driver-less cars; they have a place but as a supplement. What do I mean as a supplement? I mean that these micro and driver-less cars are not a replacement to investment and use of a mass and active transit system. To do so means you still congestion across the road network as you do now. Someone did mention Bangkok as an example of motorbike and small motor vehicle congestion as a comprehensive mass transit system in not built over there yet.

So in theory I could have a choice here if I want to go from Papakura to Manukau or the CBD for the day (as I often do):

  1. Walk to Papakura Station and catch an EMU train to Manukau (via the South Link) or to Aotea Station (part of the City Rail Link)
  2. Call up a driver-less car and be driven to either of the destinations


Option two is effectively a taxi service (as driver-less cars I would assume are user-pays?) and I still run the risk of getting stuck on the motorway somewhere. In saying that the driver-less option might be good for example if I want to nip down to Takanini and do the shopping at Countdown.

While Option One is pretty much what I do not and have no qualms in using (although its still the old diesel fleet for now) the trains – even when lugging the carry case full of documents around.


Which leads me to this conclusion for the transit modes in Auckland:

  • Short distance: driver-less car, shuttle bus, active transport
  • Medium distance: bus, normal car, train, and active transport
  • Long distance: train, normal car, bus (if route is on a dedicated right of way)


Driver-less and Micro-Cars: Good Idea but not so good in trying to fix a problem single-handedly rather than part of a full suite of transit options