Australia finds 716 potential legislative barriers to introduction of driverless vehicles


Australia’s National Transport Commission (NTC) has released ‘Regulatory options for automated vehicles’ – a discussion paper that finds a total of 716 potential issues or barriers in existing legislation that could restrict the increase in vehicle automation across the country.

The paper proposes that there are barriers in current national, state or territory legislation that need to be addressed as soon as possible, in order to ensure clarity around the status of more automated vehicles on Australia’s roads and to support further trials of self-driving cars. In the longer term, other legislative barriers will need to be addressed to allow fully driverless vehicles in the future.

The discussion paper builds upon the issues paper released by the NTC in February and the 32 submissions already made by stakeholders. The NTC has called on all interested parties to make a submission to help ensure Australia reaps the full benefits of automated vehicles as soon as possible, with a closing date of July 4. The NTC will analyze these submissions when making final recommendations to Australia’s transport ministers for their scheduled meeting in November.

The NTC says some of the questions that will need to be resolved include:

• How can governments enable on-road trials of automated vehicles nationally?

• How can governments help clarify who is controlling a vehicle when the human driver is not driving, or when control can alternate between a human and an automated driving system?

• How should the requirement that a driver must have proper control of a vehicle be interpreted by police when there is no human driver?

• What should happen to the range of laws that put obligations on a human driver of a vehicle, such as rendering assistance after a crash, complying with directions from police, and paying any tolls or fines incurred?

It is also not clear whether people injured in a crash with an automated vehicle will always be able to claim insurance under compulsory third-party insurance or state-based accident compensation schemes.

“Australia’s laws need to be ready for the biggest change to our transport system since cars replaced horses,” noted Paul Retter, NTC commissioner and chief executive (pictured). “Amending these laws shouldn’t be hard, but making sure the new laws are nationally consistent and encourage innovation, while ensuring the safety of all road users, will be important. The NTC will take recommendations to Australia’s transport ministers when they meet in November. Stakeholders now have the opportunity to tell us how to make sure we have the best possible national laws for our national economy and our local communities.

“Australian governments must ensure that the removal of these barriers, and any new requirements, are implemented in a logical sequence, in step with the commercial deployment of different automated vehicles. There are risks in trying to rush ahead and amend vehicle standards for fully automated vehicles, such as driverless pods, without first addressing existing barriers to the types of automated vehicles that we are likely to be see on our roads in the near future. Automated vehicles that share the driving task with humans are expected to be available in Australia within the next few years. As such, we are keen to hear views from all parts of industry and the community about the timing, as well as the detail of any reforms.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).