Don't hold your breath for driverless cars, SA - Nzimande

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande.
Transport Minister Blade Nzimande.

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande would like to see innovative technology hitting the transport sector in South Africa - not least, developments that could help him better monitor the country's roughly 120 000 minibus taxis. 

"One of the things I dream about is to know where each one of those 120 000 (taxis) are, if they are observing the speed limit, or if the passengers are wearing seat belts.

"This is the type of innovation and technology I would like to see," he said. 

Nzimande was speaking at the International Transport Forum Annual Summit in Leipzig, an international gathering of politicians, CEOs, leading researchers and heads of international organisations.

Though the minister says he would like to drive investment into research and innovation by establishing university chairs and professorships, in different segments of transport, he also acknowledged major development might take time.

Driverless cars

"I am not being pessimistic, but I cannot imagine driverless cars in South Africa," he said.  

He highlighted the difficulties his department faces in choosing between investing in innovation and the building of infrastructure. "It is usually not a very nice trade-off,” he said. 

"We have got pockets of what one what one would refer to as very innovative solutions and excellence in trying to use technology to improve our transport system.

"But there are also, which is a challenge, I suppose, for many developing countries, certain huge investments that we require - before making use of some of these technologies," he added.

Nzimande also raised concerns that driverless cars and other advanced technologies could potentially widen the chasm between developed and developing countries.

"Will the fourth industrial revolution really benefit the whole of humanity? Or will it deepen uneven development?"

"For now, what we need to be doing is to be dealing with road safety and the number of road crashes and road fatalities," he said.

"Government’s goal is to shift both freight and commuters from road to rail – as it will lead to a reduction in road crashes and fatalities."

*Sharlene Rood went to the ITF summit in Leipzig on Fin24's invitation, where she interviewed Blade Nzimande.

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER

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