Debono Group is currently supporting research on the introduction of driverless vehicles which use artificial intelligence in Malta, conducted by the University of Malta’s Department of Spatial Planning and Infrastructure within the Faculty for the Built Environment. The research has been dubbed Malta’s Introduction of Shared Autonomous Mobility (MISAM) and investigates the concept of a system of shared driverless vehicles while assessing if this is a viable option for Malta and Gozo from a legal and technical perspective.
Malta’s rapid population growth over the past decade had inevitably brought about an increase in the number of private vehicles on our roads, persistent traffic congestion, and a lack of available parking spaces. Emerging technologies and new transport services are now aiming towards a lifestyle change, and it is fair to say that the residents of Malta and Gozo have more transport options.
During a half-day conference on Sustainable Transport: Together Towards Cleaner Solution, which discussed MISAM among other topics, we expressed how the modal share remains dominated by the purchases and use of private vehicles. For us Maltese, the purchase of a private vehicle quickly became an emotional experience and more of us looked into investing in the comfort of our car.
As the discussion now moves towards environmentally sustainable transportation, we believe shared mobility initiatives such as Cool Ride-Pooling is key. Our data for Malta shows that services of ridesharing, or carpooling are already catering to the needs of up to 70 Maltese commuters daily, whereas one private vehicle can serve one individual. Ride and car sharing has also proven beneficial towards conserving urban spaces which are usually obstructed by a parked vehicle.
Once autonomous vehicle technology is integrated into shared transport, this service becomes instantly safer, and the number of road traffic accidents caused by driver error decreases. This also allows for a drop in the cost of the car or ride-sharing service, which encourages more individuals to travel via a shared ride and unlocks the service’s full potential. Debono Group stood by its belief that affordable alternative transport services will eventually encourage drivers to reconsider buying a new vehicle if using alternative transport becomes more financially sustainable. A recent Eurobarometer survey also showed that the Maltese would be willing to alter their reasoning on mobility and ditch a private car if the alternative is just as affordable.
While such ‘revolutions’ in the automotive industry are crucial to human technology, as businesses and private individuals may profit, further research shows the Maltese are not yet ready for autonomous transportation as they have yet to trust the technology. There are also infrastructural challenges, as roads in Malta and Gozo are not yet designed for driverless vehicles, and there is also no legislation on the matter yet.
We believe the best way to ensure the public’s acceptance of autonomous cars is to communicate the subject and demonstrate it. As key players in the local automotive industry, we can not only understand the challenges ahead but also raise awareness on the potential of such a system and further educate the public. Debono Group will continue to support such projects and the research being conducted on the technology of the tomorrow, as the future for mobility is closer than we all think.