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A brief overview of automated vehicles legislation and trials in Australia

New legislation was passed this week in the Victorian, which would allow driverless or automated vehicles to be trialled across the state.

The changes to the Road Safety Act 1986 will enable VicRoads to grant permits to individuals or organisations who want to conduct on-road trials of automated vehicles. Under the new laws, all driverless vehicle trials will require a human supervisor to monitor the vehicle from either inside or outside the vehicle. Once it has been established a vehicle can drive safely, this condition may be removed to allow the vehicle to drive in automated mode in limited circumstances without a supervisor.

This Legislation is expected to encourage national and international industry leaders to develop this emerging technology in Victoria – which means more jobs and opportunities for Victorians now.

The Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan, has also announced a AU$9 million grant program for researchers and industry, as part of the Towards Zero Road Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to work towards a 20% reduction in deaths  and 15% reduction in serious injuries in five years, from 2016 to 2020. These grants will support the development of vehicles with connected and automated technology and safety features.

In October 2016, the Victorian Government partnered with Bosch, the Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads to build the first vehicle developed in Australia with self-driving capabilities. The state Government’s Intelligent Transport System Transport Technology Grant Program includes three projects, which involve industry leaders working with transport bodies to improve traffic management and flow on Victoria’s road network. For example, the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) is partnership with Connect East and LaTrobe University, receiving $578,000 over 18 months for their project to enable roadside infrastructure such as traffic lights and electronic speed signs to communicate with vehicles.

Other Australian states have also passed legislation within the past two years to enable the trial of automated vehicles. Several trials are already being conducted around the country.

Legislation to allow the trial of automated vehicles in New South Wales (NSW) passed both Houses of Parliament in July 2017. In August 2017, the NSW Government also launched the trial of a driverless shuttle bus at Sydney Olympic Park. Transport for NSW is seeking to provide seed funding and partner with industry, researchers,  local councils and businesses to develop and co-deliver a number of connected and automated vehicle trials across regional NSW. 

Perth in Western Australia (WA) is hosting trials of electric-powered autonomous vehicles produced by French company NAVYA. The trials are being run by the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia in partnership with the State Government.

In November 2017, the South Australian Government allocated funding of AU$1 million for Flinders University for trialling Navya’s ARMA electric shuttle. The funds were assigned from the Department of Transport, Planning and Infrastructure’s Future Mobility Fund

Previously, in June 2016, the South Australian Parliament enacted the Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill 2016, providing a framework to facilitate on-road trials, testing and development of driverless vehicles and other advanced automotive technology on South Australian roads.

The ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Government entered a two-year research partnership with Canberra company, Seeing Machines, with the signing of a $1.2 million Deed of Grant in December 2017 to initiate trials to improve safety in automated vehicles using Seeing Machines’ driver monitoring technology. Fully equipped trial vehicles are expected to be on the road in early 2018.

Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads is handling the Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI) to help prepare for the arrival of new vehicle technologies with safety, mobility and environmental benefits on Queensland roads. The largest component of CAVI is the Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) Pilot. The pilot will take place on public roads in and around the City of Ipswich from 2019 for up to one year. CAVI also includes a Cooperative and Highly Automated Driving (CHAD) pilot, wherein a small number of cooperative and automated vehicles will be tested on public and private roads using trained and public participants. The pilot will asset readiness (that is, can existing signs and lines be read by automated vehicles); driver behaviour (human machine interface) and vehicle performance.

At the federal level, Australian transport ministers agreed to a phased reform program in November 2016, so that conditionally automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on roads before 2020, and highly and fully automated vehicles from 2020. The National Transport Commission (NTC) is delivering this roadmap of reform through a phased approach.

In November 2016, the NTC released a policy paper, Regulatory reforms for automated road vehicles. This concluded a one-year project to research the regulatory barriers and develop recommendations to support future reform. Transport ministers approved all eight recommendations outlined in the policy paper and charged the NTC with delivering the recommended regulatory reform agenda.

NTC developed national guidelines governing conditions for trials of automated vehicles in May 2017. In November 2017, national enforcement guidelines were developed to clarify regulatory concepts of control and proper control for different levels of driving automation.

By May 2018, NTC aims to develop legislative reform options to clarify the application of current driver and driving laws to automated vehicles, and to establish legal obligations for automated driving system (ADS) entities. NTC will design and develop a safety assurance regime for automated road vehicles by November 2018.

During 2018, NTC will also support jurisdictions in reviewing injury insurance schemes to identify any eligibility barriers for occupants of an automated vehicle, or those involved in a crash with an automated vehicle.

NTC will also work with jurisdictions to review current exemption powers to ensure legislation can support on-road trials, so that all Australian jurisdictions are able to support automated vehicle trials.

Featured image: Phillip Capper/ CC BY 2.0

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