Australia publishes national guidelines for automated vehicle trials

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Australia’s federal and state governments are taking steps to move to a new era of mobility, with the launch of national guidelines for trials of automated vehicles.

The new Guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in Australia is a joint publication from the National Transport Commission (NTC), an independent advisory body, and Austroads, the country’s main transport and traffic agency. The guidelines support state and territory road agencies in providing exemptions or permits for trials, and give greater clarity to industry on conditions for trials. Industry organizations will have enormous flexibility in the type of trials that can be run, although they will need to comply with certain issues, including the requirement to have:

• A clear scope of operations;

• A safety management plan that addresses risks;

• Appropriate insurance.

Trialling organizations will also need to provide data from trials to road transport agencies, including details of any crashes.

State and territory governments are also reviewing their own exemption powers to ensure that they have appropriate legislation to support trials. The release of the guidelines is the first stage of the NTC’s reform roadmap to support the deployment of automated vehicles. Ministers agreed in November 2016 to the roadmap, which includes a series of reforms to develop an end-to-end regulatory system for eventual commercial deployment of automated vehicles.

“The guidelines are designed to be flexible and easy for industry to use, to support trials across Australia,” explained Paul Retter, chief executive of the NTC. “We have worked closely with vehicle manufacturers, technology developers, and federal, state and territory governments to ensure our approach to trials is nationally-consistent and reflects best practice.

“With a range of different environmental conditions, a receptive population, and now guidelines for the safe conduct of trials, Australia has the potential to become a global testing and innovation hub for automated vehicles. This approach allows industry to innovate; they just need to demonstrate that they are managing the risks, including any risk to other road users.”

Nick Koukoulas, chief executive of Austroads, commented, “The guidelines draw on international best practice and have a strong focus on safety. By establishing a performance-based framework to support on-road trials, these guidelines aim to assure the Australian community that roads are being used safely.

“We’re looking forward to the Australian public getting a first-hand view of the benefits of these new and emerging technologies.”

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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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