DRIVERLESS communal cars have been proposed as the solution to Newcastle's impending university parking crisis.
The University of Newcastle's plan to provide just five on-site car spaces for the 5000 people expected to use the prospective city campus has drawn a storm of criticism.
But futurist Dr Gary Ellem said a commitment to developing autonomous car technology in Australia could see students take driverless cars to classes within five years - eliminating the need for parking.
"Public debate is always based on technology that is 100 years old, not the future 100 years of technology," Dr Ellem, a program manager of new industries at the Tom Farrell Institute at the University of Newcastle, said.
Dr Ellem acknowledged the university faced a problem with limited transport options available from many suburbs but likened building more car parks to "buying bigger pants to lose weight".
"If you start supplying parking spaces, people will demand them, and you'll never be able to build enough," said Dr Ellem, whose views do not represent those of the University or the Tom Farrell Institute.
The autonomous vehicles, which are already being developed by most car manufacturers, would provide "low-cost access from the suburbs to the city at a price that is competitive with private passenger cars", he said.
The cars would initially collect passengers from set pick-up points, he said. By the time the University reached peak operation in 2030 the cars would go door-to-door like driverless taxis.
Modelling showed driverless cars would be more economical for people who drove less than 40 kilometres a day.
Dr Ellem will discuss the cars at the Newcastle DIG conference next month.
More than 40 industry-leading experts will present their ideas at Newcastle's second design, interactive technology and green tech festival on October 16 and 17.