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The move to prepare Australia for autonomous vehicles

autonomous vehicles

Ministers at a recent Transport and Infrastructure Council Meeting agreed to a series of reform initiatives over the next 24 months designed to facilitate increased testing and trialling of more automated vehicles, ensure increased confidence in safe performance of more automated vehicles under Australian conditions, provide clarity over insurance coverage in the event of a crash, and develop a more responsive performance-based approach to the regulation of more automated vehicles.

These intiatives are outlined in a policy paper titled Regulatory Reforms for Automated Road Vehicles, which was released by the National Transport Commission (NTC).

Chief executive of the NTC Paul Retter said that removing regulatory barriers will maximise the benefits of automated vehicles, including improved road safety, freight productivity and reduced road congestion.

“Inconsistent rules, regulations and application procedures for automated vehicles are potential obstacles to deploying this disruptive technology in the future,” said Retter.

“Our goal is to identify and remove regulatory barriers, and avoid a patchwork of conflicting requirements in different states and territories.”

The phased reform program has been based on the analysis of market trends so that conditionally automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on Australian roads before 2020, and highly and fully automated vehicles from 2020.

Initiatives to commence over coming months include:

  • Developing national guidelines to support automated vehicle trials
  • Clarifying who is in control of a vehicle with different levels of driving automation
  • Developing a comprehensive performance-based safety assurance regime for increasingly automated vehicles
  • Removing regulatory barriers in Australian road rules and other transport laws that assume a human driver.

These initiatives will help to facilitate the testing and trialling of automated vehicles and prepare for their safe deployment on public roads in the future.

Australian transport ministers have reaffirmed the existing policy position that the human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated, unless or until a new position is developed and agreed.

This concludes a one year project to research the barriers to automation, consult extensively with stakeholders and develop recommendations to support future reform. Later this month the NTC will release a discussion paper seeking feedback on the development of national guidelines for trials of automated vehicles as the first stage of reform.



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