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Clare Co Council looking at idea of 'autonomous cars' to address rural transport issues

The council is exploring the concept of both an Uber-style system and the use of driverless cars and has gotten €25,000 in funding to do so.

shutterstock_84987352 File photo: Shanmuckinish Castle, Co Clare Source: Shutterstock/Lukasz Pajor

CLARE COUNTY COUNCIL has announced its intention to launch a series of advanced systems to deal with the ‘rural transport issues’ the county is facing.

The systems in question include an Uber-style app to allow for ride-sharing transport, and also the use of autonomous cars.

Uber is a ridesharing platform, one which lets non-professional drivers provide transport to another user for a predetermined fee. The service has never been established in Ireland. The company has had a presence in Ireland since 2014

In Clare, the local authority has been allocated €25,000 from Enterprise Ireland (EI) to explore the feasibility of such systems.

A spokesman for the council confirmed that the issues the council has in mind include the fact that older people in the locality don’t drive and don’t have a car, young people having no access to transport, the lack of taxis and non-existent public transport, mobile blackspots and a lack of broadband coverage, and social issues like accessing recreational events or the social outlet of a rural pub.

A common observation of rural representatives is, of course, that of the decline of the country pub with stringent drink-drive regulations in place.

The proposed initiative forms part of Clare’s Rural Development Strategy 2026, a blueprint launched last year with the goal of creating 4,000 jobs.

“There are several potential solutions,” the spokesman told TheJournal.ie.

Smartphones

Those include the installation of roaming sim cards on people’s smartphones (to tackle the issue of mobile blackspots, so more than one carrier can be used to access coverage), together with the creation of cross-platform smartphone apps.

“For older people, we need customised solutions with limited functionality,” he said.

The idea of using ‘autonomous vehicles’ is also one being seriously considered, the spokesman said, with two companies, one in Shannon and the other in Tuam, Co Galway, tendering for that project.

Should the feasibility process prove successful the council will apply to EI for additional funding with regard to developing a prototype system. That process is expected to come to fruition in late summer this year.

“This isn’t just a bright idea,” the spokesman said. “This is something Enterprise Ireland has seen the potential in.”

It could be a major breakthrough.

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