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Federal government announces new transport division
Office of Future Transport Technologies to help facilitate self-driving cars in Aus
5 Oct 2018
THE Australian federal government has announced a new office to help deal with the future introduction of autonomous vehicles on local roads, called the Office of Future Transport Technologies.
Announced by deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development Michael McCormack, the federal government will provide a $9.7 million investment to help successfully implement future transport technologies in Australia.
The announcement has been met with praise by many prominent Australian industry bodies, who believe the measure will be crucial in reducing the country’s road toll.
The office will help to coordinate projects with state governments and other agencies that introduce future transport technologies on Australian roads, including self-driving cars and connected infrastructure.
Another focus for the new office is to work towards reducing the country’s injuries and deaths caused by road accidents, a consequence that is expected to occur with the proliferation of autonomous vehicles.
Mr McCormack anticipated the industry would grow significantly by the middle of the next decade while helping to reduce the cost of road accidents.
“Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government, and the emergence of automated vehicles represents a significant opportunity to realise safety and productivity benefits while supporting Australian industry and innovation,” he said.
“The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025.
“While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, these technologies also have great potential to reduce the $27 billion cost of road crashes in Australia each year.
“These advances can also help to reduce the significant social impacts that road deaths and injuries have on families and the wider community.”
Regulatory settings will put in place that are consistent across state governments and fit with Commonwealth policies and laws, as well as United Nations regulations.
The announcement has been met with approval from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), with CEO James Goodwin saying a uniform regulatory body would aid the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Australia.
“Automated vehicle technology is no longer the future, it is in today’s new cars, and as the building blocks for full automation the establishment of a dedicated office shows national leadership and confidence,” he said.
“A dedicated office should concentrate on the regulatory and legal framework but also prioritise Australian testing and research capabilities.
“ANCAP is ready to assist the new office as the voice of the consumer, and continue to work closely with the government to progress the work needed to prepare for autonomous transport systems.”
The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) also welcomed the decision, after campaigning for stronger federal leadership in road safety, a recommendation made during the enquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, which aims to improve safety measures on Australian roads.
It believes that the integration of autonomous vehicles will help result in a reduction of road accidents and deaths, which also will have a positive outcome on the economy.
AAA chief executive Michael Bradley said the industry body welcomed the addition of the new parliamentary office, and looked forward to seeing what amendments would be made to the National Road Safety Stragety.
“The AAA fully supports the findings of the Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy,” he said.
“We look forward to the Australian Government’s formal response in Parliament to the Inquiry’s report and its 12 recommendations.
“We again encourage the Government to urgently advance a National Road Safety Governance Review to scope the management structures, accountability requirements, resourcing and budget needed for a national road safety entity.”
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) also threw its support behind the announcement, with chief executive Tony Weber saying it will be beneficial for the future of Australia’s automotive landscape.
“Our members are at the forefront of developing future vehicle technology globally and bringing this to market. With continuing enhancements in connected and automated vehicles, it is critical that Australia is at the forefront of the development of realistic and efficient regulatory settings,” he said.
Speaking to GoAuto in June, Austroads program director of connected and automated vehicles Stuart Ballingall said there were a number of areas of Australian road infrastructure that needed to be improved to facilitate the introduction of self-driving cars.
He identified uniformity of traffic signage as a prominent issue, also pointing to lane markings and upgrades to digital infrastructure as important facets. He said data security is another crucial factor, which would be handled by the federal government.
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