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Ministers agree on autonomous roadmap
Australian ministers commit to roadmap of reform for autonomous vehicle regulations
14 Nov 2016
AUTONOMOUS cars could be a step closer to hitting Australian roads, after a number of key ministers agreed to a series or reform initiatives at last week’s Transport and Infrastructure Council meeting that will ensure more testing and trialling of self-driving technology.
The National Transport Commission – the intergovernmental agency tasked with “improving the productivity, safety and environmental performance” of the country’s roads and transport systems – released a policy paper detailing initiatives related to the roll out of autonomous technology in Australia in the coming years.
The commission said in a media release that state, territory and federal ministers all agreed to a number of reforms to be rolled out over the next two years “to facilitate increased testing and trialling of more automated vehicles, ensure increased confidence in safe performance of more automated vehicles under Australian conditions, provide clarity over insurance coverage in the event of a crash, and develop a more responsive performance-based approach to the regulation of more automated vehicles”.
NTC chief executive Paul Retter said the commission was hoping to remove regulatory barriers and ensure that laws are more consistent.
“Inconsistent rules, regulations and application procedures for automated vehicles are potential obstacles to deploying this disruptive technology in the future,” he said.
“Our goal is to identify and remove regulatory barriers, and avoid a patchwork of conflicting requirements in different states and territories.”
The reforms roadmap is based on a timeframe that expects autonomous vehicles to be released by car-makers and on roads by 2020.
Some of the initiatives that will start in the coming months to facilitate testing and trialling of autonomous vehicles in Australia include developing national guidelines to support automated vehicle trials, clarifying who is in control of a vehicle with different levels of automation, developing a safety assurance regime for increasingly automated vehicles, and scrapping regulatory barriers in Australian Road Rules and other transport laws where it is assumed that a human driver is in control of the vehicle.
The commission said that transport ministers from across the country reaffirmed the policy position that states a “human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated”, until a new position is agreed.
Australia’s peak body for the car industry, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), has welcomed the roadmap, with the chamber’s chief executive Tony Weber highlighting some of the benefits of autonomous technology.
“The industry is delighted that the meeting of federal, state and territory transport and infrastructure ministers has moved so expeditiously in supporting plans for a progressive and well-structured roll-out program for C-ITS (Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems),” he said.
“In the long-term, C-ITS promises to deliver significant benefits to the community in such areas as road user safety, lower traffic congestion, and reduced emissions. The industry welcomes the NTC’s plan to identify and reduce regulatory barriers and strive for a national framework.”
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