“Agreeing on a nationally-consistent approach is also expected to provide more certainty for consumers, automotive manufacturers and insurers.”
Source: Clarifying control of automated vehicles, page 5
The National Transport Commission (NTC) is Australia has released a discussion paper, ‘Clarifying control of automated vehicles’. The paper provides NTC’s preferred options and seeks feedback on the development of national enforcement guidelines to clarify if the human driver or the automated driving system is in control at certain levels of driving automation.
Source: Clarifying control of automated vehicles, page 9
The NTC is an independent statutory body responsible for improving the productivity, safety and
environmental performance of Australia’s road, rail and intermodal transport systems. NTC develops and submits reform recommendations for approval to the Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC), which comprises Commonwealth, state and territory transport, infrastructure and planning ministers. As autonomous vehicles predicted to have a significant impact on transport in the near future, NTC is in the process of dealing with the regulatory aspects.
Paul Retter, Chief Executive of the NTC said, “Our existing road transport laws are based on the principle that the human driver is in control of the vehicle. Vehicles with an automated driving system that can perform parts of the driving task challenge these concepts of control. We need to arrive at an agreed position early to provide certainty for police and enforcement agencies. Agreeing on a nationally-consistent approach is also expected to provide more certainty for consumers, automotive manufacturers and insurers around the question of who may be liable for damages following a crash or incident involving automated vehicles.”
Four key issues
The paper lists down four key issues from a law enforcement perspective:
Who is in control of an automated vehicle?
The two options here would be considering the human to be in charge, even when the automated driving system is engaged in and is performing the dynamic driving task. The second option is to consider the automated system to be in charge when it is driving.
NTC prefers the first option of holding the human responsible in all circumstances, because of concern that if the human driver is not considered to be in control, he or she may engage in
unsafe behaviours while the automated driving system is engaged. Also, the road traffic laws are not yet in a state of readiness to accommodate automated vehicles.
How should ‘proper control’ apply to the human driver in vehicles at different levels of automation?
The Australian Road Rules have a performance-based requirement that a driver exercises proper
control of the vehicle. It is usually interpreted by enforcement agencies as only a human driver being in control of the vehicle and the human driver sitting in the driver’s seat with at least one hand on the steering wheel.
Either this current interpretation could be maintained or it could be clarified to allow the human driver to not have a hand on the steering wheel in a self-parking operation or when an automated vehicle is in automated mode. New indicators of proper control related to alertness and readiness to intervene, which would be reviewed as technology develops. NTC prefer the latter option.
How should ‘proper control’ apply to the automated driving system when the automated function is engaged?
NTC proposes for the first iteration of the guidelines to not deal with the application of proper control to the automated driving system to avoid interpretation of theoretical entities and obligations. It suggests that guidelines be updated to deal with proper control, when the automated driving system and the automated driving system entity are recognised in legislation and a safety assurance system is implemented.
How will enforcement officers know what level of automation is engaged at a particular time?
The paper states that there is a range of technology solutions that could be developed by vehicle manufacturers to help enforcement agencies interact with automated vehicles and know what level of automation is engaged at a particular time.
NTC proposes that the guidelines should not specify how enforcement officers interact with automated vehicles until the technology capability of automated vehicles is more developed and enforcement practices implemented in overseas jurisdictions. It is also suggested that NTC should work closely with vehicle manufacturers to identify technology solutions.
There are 10 consultation questions in the paper, such as ‘Do you agree with the assumptions and objectives underpinning the NTC’s work to develop national enforcement guidelines?’ and ‘For the purposes of enforcing proper control, is there value in grouping levels of driving automation according to whether vehicles are capable of automated operation?’
Submissions are open till June 2, 2017. NTC will report back to the TIC in November 2017 with proposed national enforcement guidelines. The guidelines are expected to be finalised in late 2017, based on feedback from the TIC.
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