Autonomous electric vehicles, the Tesla trajectory of Elon Musk, and the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival

When talking with a friend about our coming annual Electric Vehicle Festival this week, he told of how his brother in California puts his new Tesla on autopilot when driving on the crowded stop-go LA freeways and catches up on his paperwork and emails. 

Driverless cars are here already.  Futurist Dr Gary Ellem has been leading us at the TFI on this journey from Diamonds from Coal, the EVFestival, the EVPrize promoting STEM in schools, to the future when we will not own a car but just call the driverless car service up on our phone when we need to go somewhere in the city.

Now is the time for Newcastle to set up an autonomous vehicle test bed that will not only grow new industries in our Valley but will help the State drive new legislation to cope with this future now.

The Tesla vehicle itself had its origins in Silicon Valley late last century, but its rise to fame and fortune has been on the back of billionaire Elon Musk, the inventor of PayPal. His plan in 2006 was to create and sell a low volume but expensive electric car, then use that money to develop an affordable high volume car.

His next ten-year plan is to move the world away from unsustainable fossil fuels by combining battery technology with solar infrastructure: to coat the car with solar panels to integrate energy generation with storage; to move into SUVs, trucks and buses; and to develop a self-driving capability that is ten times safer than manual that will allow car sharing, thus enabling your car to make money for you when you are not using it.

You can see this future transport world at Cameron Park Kart track this coming weekend including 104 teams from 22 schools competing in the EVPrize.

Professor Tim Roberts is the director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment, University of Newcastle