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Commission calls for help on autonomous laws

Auto pilot: Car-makers, including Mercedes-Benz, are increasingly rolling out automated technology such as lane-keeping aids.

NTC calls for public submissions on how best to develop automated car legislation

8 Feb 2016

THE National Transport Commission (NTC) has called for public submissions on how best to shape and manage the laws that will govern automated vehicles in Australia.

Last week the commission released a paper calling for submissions from technology experts, transports policy makers, car-makers and the wider community on how to develop the most appropriate laws relating to autonomous technology.

The NTC points out that car-makers are rapidly introducing levels of automation into their vehicles, including stop/start traffic pilot, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking and lane-keeping aids.

While premium brands including Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Volvo offer some of this technology, increasingly, mainstream brands such as Subaru are also introducing it to their models.

The commission says that the availability of this technology, ahead of more advanced versions and a wider roll out, brings up issues such as “interaction between road transport, rail safety and consumer protection laws, as well as liability and insurance, and common law requirements need to be addressed”.

NTC chief executive Paul Retter said that while the benefits of self-driving vehicles for the elderly or disabled are clear, more needs to be done to identify the issues associated with the technology.

“Governments and industry need to work together to make sure Australians get the best laws for these new vehicles,” he said.

“While we have already identified a number of potential issues we are asking anyone with an interest in the future of transport to have their say. This feedback will help to make sure we address all of the issues associated with automated vehicles.

“For example, many road safety laws assume that there will always be a human driver, but how do automated vehicles comply with a legal requirement to hold a driver’s licence, or comply with authorised officers or give assistance if a person is injured?“The NTC will need to look at fundamental concepts including defining the driver, what is meant by ‘control of the vehicle’ and consider how automated vehicles should interact with other road users.”

According to the NTC, the idea behind the issues paper, released last week, is to examine Australian regulations and highlight any regulatory barriers relating to automated road and rail vehicles.

The paper gives an overview of the existing regulations and identifies issues such as clarifying who or what has control of the vehicle and compliance with traffic laws, vehicles standards and safety assurance, liability and responsibility for actions of the automated vehicle and data and privacy issues.

The NTC describes itself as an independent statutory body contributing to “the achievement of national transport policy objectives by developing regulatory and operational reform of road, rail and intermodal transport”.

Submissions will be accepted up to and including Tuesday March 8.

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