Australia’s NTC to study four options for an automated vehicle safety assurance system

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Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a discussion paper that examines the balance between government oversight and industry self-regulation for automated vehicle safety, and identifies four regulatory options for a safety assurance system for the new technology.

The paper, Regulatory options to assure automated vehicle safety in Australia, calls on Australian governments, vehicle manufacturers, transport technology providers, and other interested parties, to contribute to the development of a national safety assurance regime for automated vehicles.

The NTC is seeking feedback on four regulatory options: continuing the current approach, self-certification, pre-market approval, and accreditation. Submissions for the discussion paper are open until July 28, and following consultation, the NTC will present a preferred regulatory option to transport ministers in November 2017. This work is seen as a key part of the NTC’s roadmap of reform to prepare Australia for automated road vehicles.

“Australian governments are starting to remove legislative barriers to more automated road vehicles. Without a safety assurance system, these vehicles could potentially be deployed with no government oversight or regulatory intervention,” explained the NTC’s chief executive, Paul Retter.

“These technologies are highly innovative, technically advanced and varied, and we don’t yet know if they will be safe. We need a mechanism that supports innovation without unnecessary red tape, but also assures the Australian public that automated vehicles are safe. This is a significant reform in road transport. Over time we will see the risks associated with the driving task shift away from the human driver toward the automated driving system, and our regulatory system must be able to accommodate this shift.”

The NTC has also released a new work program designed to enable next-generation mobility through more responsive regulation, and a strategic analysis report, Land Transport Regulation 2040, which identified a number of plausible future scenarios Australia could face over the course of the next two decades.

The NTC is studying next-generation mobility options, such as automated vehicles, ride-sharing, and other ‘on demand’ transport services, and how they would be facilitated by increased access to digital information. The work program would help to deliver on a request from Australia’s transport ministers to identify and remove regulatory barriers that may prevent or delay the deployment of more innovative transport products and services.

Retter noted, “Our work program includes a number of new projects aimed at ensuring Australia’s transport laws can support the safe commercial deployment of more innovative transport solutions.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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