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Driverless cars in Australia?

A recent federal inquiry into driverless cars has put forward a host of recommendations so Australia can make the most of the many benefits of this innovative technology. Automated vehicles also have many repercussions for government — at all levels.

Salsa Digital 3 October 2017

The report

The Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources recently released its report into driverless vehicles in Australia. The report, titled Social issues relating to land-based automated vehicles in Australia, comes after over eight months of public hearings, written submissions and inspections.

The report is over 100 pages long, and starts with the final recommendations before going into a detailed analysis. The report includes sections on:

  • Public acceptance and engagement
  • Safety
  • Legal responsibility and insurance
  • Employment
  • Access and equity
  • Public transport applications
  • The role of governments

While all of these topics are relevant to government, the last two sections are particularly important to government. Automated vehicles have the power to both transform government (e.g. public transport applications) and to be influenced by government policies and procedures.

Recommendations

The report made 10 recommendations, covering everything from terminology (automated vehicles) to the need to hold more trials in Australia “with a particular focus on trials that enable members of the public to experience automated vehicles on public roads.”

Below is a summary of the recommendations:

  1. Automated vehicles is the preferred terminology and the Australian Government should use the standard definition from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

  2. Given the range of benefits of automated cars, Australia needs to hold more trials to move forward.

  3. The National Cyber Security Strategy should investigate automated vehicles to assess vulnerabilities.

  4. The Commonwealth Government needs to investigate data rights for consumers, vehicle manufacturers and third parties such as insurers and government agencies.

  5. A working party should be established with industry and academic stakeholders to ensure Australia can take advantage of emerging opportunities.

  6. The use of automated vehicles needs to be considered for all groups, including people with disabilities, older Australians and those in regional and rural areas.

  7. All levels of government (federal, state/territory and local) should work together to trial automated vehicles in public transport.

  8. All levels of government need to work together to develop consistent regulations and policies for automated vehicles.

  9. The Commonwealth Government should standardise road infrastructure, including signs and road markings, in preparation for automated vehicles.

  10. The Commonwealth Government should investigate establishing a dedicated national body, working with states/territories and vehicle and software manufacturers, to prepare Australia for automated vehicles.

Salsa Digital’s take

It’s easy to imagine a futuristic world where all the cars on the road are automated, and we all reap the benefits — particularly an exceptionally low road toll. It’s great to see the Australian Government preparing for this technological revolution. Hopefully it’s the start of a co-ordinated approach from all levels of government and industry to bring automated vehicles to Australian roads in the best and safest way possible.

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