Nicole Hasham, 05 April 2016

Developers are queuing to create smartphone apps to allow motorists to find the cheapest petrol in Australia ahead of the release of real-time fuel-price data next month.

It comes as the Turnbull government pushes for public access to masses of electronic information, such as patterns of traffic flows and car parking, hoping to trigger citizen and business solutions to the problems plaguing cities.

From May 20, petrol price data held by information exchange service Informed Sources will be made available by location, allowing motorists to find the cheapest place to fill up. The data will be updated every 15 minutes.

The company’s managing director, Alan Cadd, said 30 app developers and a number of other parties, including government departments and marketing agencies, had shown interest in accessing the data.

He predicted that up to 20 per cent of motorists would use the information when buying petrol, potentially saving $200 a year or more by finding the lowest deals in their area.

“I think there will definitely be people in the market who want to buy cheap, and anything that has a continuous downward pressure on prices helps,” Mr Cadd said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission found in February that motorists were not fully benefiting from a fall in crude oil prices – partly due to high retail margins.

The data will cover about half the 6500 petrol stations in Australia, operated by major retailers including Caltex, BP, 7-11 and Woolworths. Coles Express will not take part, but a spokesman said it was “considering new ways” to share fuel prices with customers.

It follows schemes such as Western Australia’s FuelWatch – a national version of which the Rudd Labor Government proposed, but failed to pass through the Senate, amid fears it would drive up petrol prices by forcing retailers to fix prices in advance.

Apps developed from Informed Sources data will compete with existing tools such as MotorMouth, which reports prices for around 2300 service stations. It updates prices twice a day and allows consumers to submit prices.

In a statement on Monday, Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor said the possibilities of open data were “endless” and could mean the biggest transport challenges in cities “become a matter of public domain”.

“There is huge potential for big data and analytics to revolutionise strategic planning to make our cities more liveable and sustainable,” he said.

“By opening access to the information, we unlock the opportunities for individuals to re-imagine our cities.”

He later said about 8000 so-called “discoverable data sets” of federal government information were now publicly available, subject to privacy requirements.

Many more would soon be released including a century’s worth of patents, trademarks and other intellectual property rights held by IP Australia, which would assist groups, including start-ups, seeking information about existing patents.

Mr Taylor said the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s recent release of telecommunications tower coordinates had led to an app that helped people determine which mobile phone or internet provider would give them the best coverage.

Extracted in full from the Sydney Morning Herald.