'Purpose-built legislation' being developed in Australia for automated vehicles

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In Australia, “purpose-built legislation” will be developed to allow an automated driving system (ADS) to drive more automated motor vehicles in place of a human.

National Transport Commission (NTC) Chief Executive Paul Retter says that a new national law—expected to be in place by 2020—would bring certainty to manufacturers and operators that want to bring more automated vehicle technology to the country.

“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,” Retter explains.

“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.”

According to Retter, the NTC believed a uniform national approach will not only help automated vehicle manufacturers and the public understand the legal framework they are operating in, but it would also speed up the introduction of automated vehicles in Australia.

Just a few weeks ago, transport ministers agreed to a uniform approach across all states and territories to make sure that there is always a legal entity in charge of driving when an automated driving system is engaged. This is set out in the NTC Policy Paper entitled “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 for a variety of reasons, including to: “allow an automated driving system (rather than a human) to perform the dynamic driving task when it is engaged; ensure that there is always a legal entity responsible for driving; set out any obligations on relevant entities, including the ADS entity, and users of automated vehicles; and provide flexible compliance and enforcement options.”

The NTC consulted widely with government and industry last year and this year with 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” needed to establish the new purpose-built national law by 2020.

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

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