news The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a discussion paper that cites a number of barriers to increased vehicle automation and concludes that Australia is not yet ready for driverless cars.
The paper – titled Regulatory options for automated vehicles – suggests that there are issues that need to be quickly addressed both to ensure clarity over the status of automated vehicles on Australian roads and to support further trials.
In the longer term, the NTC said in a statement, other legislative barriers will need to be addressed to allow fully driverless vehicles in the future.
“Australia’s laws need to be ready for the biggest change to our transport system since cars replaced horses,” said NTC CEO Paul Retter.
The Commission listed a number of questions it feels need to be addressed before automated cars take to the road in any big way.
For example, how can governments enable on-road trials of automated vehicles nationally? And 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?
There are also issues with laws that put obligations on a human driver of a vehicle such as providing assistance after a crash, complying with directions from police, or paying any tolls or fines incurred.
Additionally, the NTC said it isn’t not clear whether people injured in a crash with an automated vehicle will always be able to make a claim under compulsory third party insurance or state-based accident compensation schemes.
“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,” Retter said.
The CEO explained that the NTC will take its recommendations to the country’s transport ministers for their scheduled meeting in November, and invited stakeholders to tell the Commission how to make sure Australia has the “best possible national laws for our national economy and our local communities”.
He added there were risks in trying to rush into amending vehicle standards for fully automated vehicles 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.
As automated vehicles that share the driving task with humans are expected to be available in Australia within the next few years, the NTC said it is keen to hear views from all parts of industry and the community about possible reforms.
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