Mobility organization Touring is absolutely unhappy about the news that Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet does not want to make room for the introduction of the self-driving car. He told this newspaper that he sees a range of problems and risks.
And so he believes that cars that are highly “self-driving” should not be allowed to drive on Belgian roads. “I am not in favor,” says the Ecolo minister. “It is an intermediate form of autonomous driving: people who are gaming in their car are not alert enough to be able to intervene quickly if necessary. (…) Self-driving cars also get stuck in traffic jams and cause pollution. For long journeys, it is better to encourage people to take the train than to sit in a self-driving car. They can also rest on the train,” he argues.
READ ALSO. Minister Gilkinet stops self-driving cars in Belgium: “If you want to rest, it is better to take the train”
Touring says it is “disappointed” “in the minister’s unwillingness” to pave the way for self-driving vehicles and to be able to enjoy their benefits in the long term. The mobility organization announced this on Tuesday.
“It is certain that automated vehicles can be a major step forward in terms of road safety, but that they can also have resolutely positive effects in terms of traffic flow and therefore environmental impact,” it said. Touring believes that we should not nip these opportunities in the bud and that pilot projects involving autonomous vehicles must be urgently permitted and set up.
Inhibiting technological improvement that is in full swing and coming anyway, never has a sustainable positive effect. Moreover, this weakens our position compared to neighboring countries that are ambitiously committed to technological innovation, it said.
Touring also does not agree with the minister’s arguments. “It actually advocates less clean, less smooth, less safe, less comfortable car traffic, just so as not to widen the gap with the train. That is a destructive strategy.”
“Everyone should realize that we need the best and most advanced technology for all modes of transport to roll out a high-performance, multimodal mobility system that successfully meets the challenges. It is incomprehensible that in policy terms people still think in terms of ‘either-or’ and not ‘and-and’,” the organization concludes.
Also the road safety institute Vias has difficulty with the minister’s statements. Stef Willems of Vias warns that the technology cannot be stopped, also for passenger cars. “It would therefore be a good idea to organize pilot projects to evaluate the technology. The Autonomous Transport Taskforce was launched at Flemish level at the end of September. This must guide the rise of autonomous transport in Flanders and provide maximum support for new pilot projects,” it said.
As for the Flemish Minister of Mobility Lydia Peeters autonomous mobility is “a reality that we cannot avoid”. Flanders will continue to “take a participatory role” within its powers in order to guide the market, it says.