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Government set to propose mandatory ESC

Stable: ESC systems like the Ford Mondeo's could soon be obligatory.

Australia signs up to an international stability control standard at the UN

General News logo1 Jul 2008

THE federal government is preparing legislation to mandate the fitment of electronic stability control on all new vehicles sold in Australia from 2012, or perhaps even earlier.

The government move follows the adoption of international standards for ESC at the United Nations in Geneva last week.

Australia was a signatory to the ESC regulation – along with the United States, the European Union, Japan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Korea, South Africa and Canada – and as such is obliged to go through the process of considering it for local application.

The federal minister for transport, Anthony Albanese, is expected to initiate an impact assessment process by the end of July, which will be followed by a 60-day period for public comments.

If the minister then decides to proceed with the legislation under the Motor Vehicle Standards Act, it will likely become an Australian Design Rule (ADR) by Christmas.

The minister is understood to be under pressure from some corners – notably the Victorian government – to not only legislate but to make the introduction date sooner than 2012.

The general manager for vehicle safety standards in the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Peter Robertson, said that the FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries) and state transport ministers would be consulted as part of the assessment.

80 center imageLeft: The federal minister for transport, Anthony Albanese.

Mr Robertson, who signed the regulation on behalf of Australia in Geneva last week, told GoAuto yesterday (Tuesday) that Australia’s already high take-up rate of ESC would be a consideration in deciding if legislation was necessary.

“Despite what you sometimes see quoted that we are behind Europe, for example, we are not,” Mr Robertson told us in an exclusive interview.

“We are at least on a par with Europe, and possibly better in uptake (of ESC). There are some countries in Europe with a very high uptake, like Germany and Sweden because of the conditions they drive in, but we are ahead of the European average on the latest analysis.

“Australia and Europe both tend to be fairly quick in taking up technology. When you consider the size of the market, we tend to be pretty good. Ford, Holden and Toyota with all their locally manufactured models have ESC standard, so the local manufacturers are covered.” Mr Robertson noted that Europe and Japan, which provide many of the imported cars to Australia, are also considering making ESC mandatory for all new models introduced from 2012, and all vehicles from 2014.

The United States already has legislation in place making ESC mandatory from 2012, with percentage targets leading up to that date (which Australia already exceeds).

“Once the regulation is established through the United Nations process, each signatory has an obligation to submit the regulation to their domestic rulemaking process,” Mr Robertson told us.

“We have to go through the process of establishing a need for the regulation, identifying its costs and benefits.

“If we decide that ESC is a desirable technology and we want it on all cars, there are various ways that can happen – the market can just do it by itself, you could look at other incentive schemes or you can create an ADR that says you must have it by law.

“We will have to go through the regulation impact assessment process here, which we will do towards the end of July – we’ll have a document out for public comment – and, if the case is established, we would expect to have a regulation in place by Christmas this year.” The Geneva regulation defines the international standard for ESC – including in-car displays, whether the system can be disabled and what the default settings are – as well as a global testing standard.

“If you are going to mandate ESC, you have to define in the legislation what ESC is so that, when a manufacturer comes to me and says he has it, I can pull out the draft regulation, which is about (a centimetre) thick, that sets out the performance criteria and a number of other requirements that demonstrate if you have the right technology.

“If you are going to make it compulsory for all manufacturers, you need to set out in the regulations how that’s going to work (but) the regulation needs to be assessed to see whether it’s worth that effort.

“If the ultimate objective is to have ESC in vehicles in the marketplace, that may not be necessary.”

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