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Self-driving Volvos proposed for NSW

Kick back: Reading the morning paper on the way to work could become a reality in the future with self-driving cars.

Volvo tells parliamentary inquiry it could have self-driving cars on road by 2021

17 Jun 2016

AS PART of its research into self-driving technology, Swedish car-maker Volvo has told a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry that if local road laws are changed, self-driving cars could be on sale in the state within five years.

The company has called on the state government to conduct a self-driving car trial in Sydney prior to 2021 as part of a strategy to reduce traffic congestion in Australia's largest city.

Appearing in front of the NSW Staysafe Committee's public inquiry into driverless cars and road safety, Volvo said it had developed autonomous vehicle technology that could be safely applied to selected roads such as the M5 and M7.

Following the hearing, Volvo Car Australia managing director Kevin McCann said that the company's autonomous tech could be in Australian showrooms by 2021, provided the relevant legislation could be finalised in time.

“Major cities around the world, like London and Los Angeles, are planning for it right now,” he said. “Sydney is Australia’s largest city with the most traffic, so it makes sense for the state government and transport agencies to start planning now for the technology that could be on our roads by 2021.”

As previously reported, the technology would not allow an autonomous car to tackle all roads from the outset, but would start with more straightforward sections, while more complex roads would be added into the system as the technology evolves.

Mr McCann explained that a number of Sydney's roads were well suited to the company's self-driving technology in its current state.

“Volvo believes it is feasible to conduct a safe driverless car trial in Sydney on a connected road system like the M5, M7, M2 and M1,” he said.

“This would pave the way for changes to the road laws prior to self-driving cars going on sale in NSW. This is possible within five years if local roads laws are changed to accommodate the cars.

“Having self-driving cars on our major roads in Sydney is not science fiction.

It’s reality, and it is approaching very fast. Volvo and other manufacturers have developed self-driving technology and safety features to a very advanced level.”

In November last year, the South Australian government conducted Australia's first successful driverless car demonstration, driving a Volvo XC90 large SUV along a section of South Australia's Southern Highway without human intervention.

The road was closed to the public for the milestone test, however a law had been passed by the state government prior to the event, allowing the testing of driverless cars, making the road closure a precautionary measure.

The authorisation of driverless cars for local roads still has some major challenges, but at the time of the South Australian trial, Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) managing director Gerard Waldron said it would be easier for Australia to achieve than other nations.

“This is one of those areas where Australia has an advantage over other parts of the world,” he said.

“The European Union is good at coordinating things but they do have 35 countries to deal with, 50 states of the USA have to agree, but Australia has already got quite a good track record of nationally consistent legislation.

“There are opportunities for us to get our act together quite quickly and therefore be a good place for the vehicle industry to trial their products.”

Volvo is planning its first mass driverless car trial in 2017 in the brand's hometown of Gothenberg, Sweden, involving up to 100 XC90s driven by regular motorists.

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