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Credit: The National Transport Commission

Credit: The National Transport Commission

Australia to draft new national driving law for automated vehicles

On 29 May, it was announced that Australia will be adopting a uniform national approach in drafting a new national driving law to regulate automated driving systems and automated vehicles.

The announcement made by the National Transport Commission (NTC) described the move as “a ground-breaking approach to driving laws in Australia” which will see the development of purpose-built legislation to allow an automated driving system (ADS) to drive more automated motor vehicles in place of a human.

According to Mr Paul Retter, Chief Executive of the NTC, the new national law, due to be in place by 2020, would bring certainty to manufacturers and operators looking to bring more automated vehicle technology to Australia.

“With automated vehicles, there will be times when an ‘automated driving system’, rather than a human, will be in control of the vehicle. We need a nationally consistent law to know who is in control of a motor vehicle at any point in time,” said Mr Retter.

“Without a change to existing laws or new law, there would be no-one to hold responsible for compliance with our road rules when an automated driving system is in control of a vehicle.”

Mr Retter said the NTC believed a uniform national approach will help automated vehicle manufacturers and the public understand the legal framework they are operating in and accelerate the introduction of automated vehicles in Australia.

“This is a considerable change to national road transport laws, to support the significant changes we see coming in transport technology,” Mr Retter said.

On 18 May, transport ministers of various states and territories across the country agreed to a uniform approach to ensure there is always a legal entity in charge of driving when an automated driving system is engaged. They have agreed that Australia should aim to have end-to-end regulation in place by 2020 to support the safe commercial deployment and operation of automated vehicles at all levels of automation.

As set out in the NTC Policy Paper Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles, the new legislation would be in place by 2020 in time for the anticipated commercial rollout of automated vehicles in Australia.

The NTC proposed the introduction of a uniform law to achieve several objectives:

(1)     To allow an automated driving system, rather than a human, to perform the dynamic driving task when it is engaged,

(2)     To ensure that there is always a legal entity responsible for driving,

(3)     To set out any obligations on relevant entities, including the ADS entity, and users of automated vehicles, and

(4)     To provide flexible compliance and enforcement options.

The NTC consulted widely with government and industry through a discussion paper on changing driving laws to support automated vehicles.

Following on from the ministers’ approval, the NTC will work closely with road agencies and transport departments to develop the detailed policy recommendations and legislative analysis necessary to establish the new purpose-built national law by 2020.

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