Australia drafting new laws for Autonomous Vehicles

30 May 2018

It has been an exciting year for the motor industry and especially autonomous vehicles for Australia so far. Following the introduction of new regulations to support autonomous vehicles back in January by ACMA, the NTC (national Transport Commission) has now also announced it will be drafting a new national law that will enable the use of autonomous vehicles on Australian roads.

As ACMA noted back then that they believed harmonising Australia’s ITS arrangements with wider global developments means Australian motorists are more likely to enjoy the benefits of connected vehicles as they become available, the NTC has followed suit and aligned itself to the latest technological developments.

The National Road Transport Commission, is an Australian independent statutory body created to develop regulatory and operational reform for road, rail and intermodal transport.

The NTCs – and their subsequent study which you can find here – believes that in order to change Australia’s driving laws to support automated vehicles, traffic legislation needs to be amended first as it “assumes there is a human driver,” and is thus a barrier to rolling out automated vehicles.

“With automated vehicles, there will be times when an automated driving system [ADS], rather than a human, will be in control of the vehicle. We need a nationally consistent law to know who is in control of a motor vehicle at any point in time. Without a change to existing laws or new law, there would be no-one to hold responsible for compliance with our road rules when an automated driving system is in control of a vehicle.” Retter said

NTC chief executive Paul Retter said about the new the legislation – expected to be in place by 2020 the latest – that it would not only assist vehicle manufacturers understand the legalities and legal framework they are operating in but also the public to get a better comprehension. In return, he believes this would speed up public acceptance and hence the introduction of autonomous vehicles to Australian roads.

The legislative reform is expected to:

▪ ensure there is a legal entity that can be held responsible for the ADS when it is
operating
▪ establish any new legal obligations that may be required for users of automated
vehicles
▪ outline further work that needs to be done to transform agreed policy into legislation.

▪ provide clarity about the situations when an automated driving system (ADS), rather
than a human driver, may drive a vehicle

The NTC is now expected to work alongside with road agencies and transport departments and road agencies nationally with an aim of  developing the detailed policy recommendations and legislative analysis necessary to establish the new law by 2020.

“This is a considerable change to national road transport laws, to support the significant changes we see coming in transport technology,” Retter added.

So it remains to be seen if other countries will also now start being more proactive about the introduction of new laws to safeguard the industry and players involved whilst also informing the public more regularly to increase awareness and engagement.

Article by Nicholas Kalavas for Y-Mobility

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