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TAC invests $1.2m in self-drive ‘silver bullet’

Future proof: The TAC believes that the advent of autonomous vehicles will be a crucial factor in reducing road trauma, hence its million-dollar investment in Bosch Australia’s self-driving prototype based on the Tesla Model S.

Victoria’s state-run insurance company helps fund Bosch’s new autonomous vehicle


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7 Oct 2016

THE Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC) provided a $1.2 million grant to Bosch Australia’s autonomous car project because it sees the emerging technology as a “silver bullet” for attacking the state’s $6 billion road trauma burden.

And the TAC, a state-owned insurance company that covers all transport accidents caused by the driving of various types of vehicles – including cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses, trams and trains – is open to participate in other projects that would improve road safety, according to TAC chief executive Joe Calafiore.

“This is not a feel-good story for us, or a PR stunt – it’s an investment,” Mr Calafiore said at the unveiling of Bosch’s Australian autonomous car this week.

“It’s taxpayers’ money and the TAC board expects a return on its investment.”

Mr Calafiore said the TAC was excited about the advancements in automotive technology because they support the commission’s ‘Towards Zero’ campaign, which aims to eliminate road fatalities by 2055.

“It’s a terribly exciting announcement. (Vehicle autonomy) really is a silver bullet when it comes to road trauma reduction and we are very excited about today’s announcement.”

He said new crash-avoidance technology in cars was expected to produce a big reduction in the costs of road trauma.

“The cost of road trauma alone to the TAC is over $1 billion, that’s $1.2b out the door every year. The total cost for the state of Victoria is $6 billion a year.

“But that’s just the economics. The social cost, the trauma and people suffering, that’s immeasurable.”

More than 20,000 people made new claims during 2014-15 and the total number of people being cared for under the TAC’s operations during that period was around 47,000.

“I believe infrastructure and technology are going to be the two strongest levers that are going to push road trauma down. Education and enforcement are enabling functions, and we’ll keep doing that, but I think here (autonomous vehicles) is where the future is,” Mr Calafiore said.

“The really exciting advances in vehicle technology, as Bosch has revealed today, gives Victoria a real chance to once again be the leader in road safety.”

Victoria was the first state to mandate seatbelts and also electronic stability control systems.

Mr Calafiore said the $1.2 million grant to the Bosch project was not unusual, although he said it was “modern and different” for the TAC.

“It’s the world we live in today,” he said, adding that he hoped the advent of autonomous cars would put the TAC out of business by eliminating road accidents.

“We get asked a lot about Towards Zero and 2055. Here we are in 2016 – this is not pie in the sky – and experts have modelled the data and they say it’s credible to say you can eliminate serious road trauma in a safe car, on a safe road, doing the right things.

“Now, if you are doing 160km/h with no seatbelt on and you’re on drugs, all you can do is pray. But it’s a credible statement to say, within our lifetimes, you can eliminate serious road trauma in Victoria. We couldn’t have said that 10 years ago.”

The TAC earned about $400 million on its insurance underwriting operations in 2014-15. Each year it makes a series of grants for various road safety projects.

In 2014-15 it distributed $97.6 million for safer road infrastructure, another $58.2 million for road safety advertising and a total of $1.2 million to 20 Victorian councils so they could improve pedestrian zones, bike paths and reduced speed zones in shopping centres.

“Ninety-three per cent of crashes today are due to driver error and the simple fact is people are fallible and people will continue to make mistakes. What we know in road safety is you don’t have to pay for a mistake with your life,” Mr Calafiore said.

“I suppose the short story is that, despite the fact people complain about speed cameras and revenue raising, road trauma costs the state of Victoria billions every year.”

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