Is Australia Autonomous Vehicle Trial Ready?

The National Transport Commission (NTC) and Austroads with the support of all levels of Australian Government, has released Guidelines for Trials of Automated Vehicles in Australia. The NTC is an independent advisory body to advise government on transport reform. Austroads is the peak organisation of Australian transport and traffic agencies.

With the release of the Guidelines and the support of all State Transport Ministers, the path is now clear for genuine trials of autonomous vehicles on Australian Roads. This is an exciting step on the path to the mass adoption of autonomous vehicles and an encouraging sign that Australia is keeping up with other developed countries in the adoption of autonomous vehicles.

At its heart any trials will still rely on the ability of each state to exempt the proposed conduct from existing rules? However, by releasing guidelines, NTC and Austroads have legitimised a way forward to enable and facilitate testing to begin in earnest.

Coupled with the decision of ANCAP recently that will require Autonomous Emergency Braking to obtain a 5 star safety rating it is clear that the progressive automation is not only coming, it's safer.

There is an explicit acknowledgement and contemplation in the guidelines that trials will differ and involve different types of automation, location technology and risks. It asks applicants to submit an application that contains and addresses (or explains why it doesn’t need to address) a range of criteria, including no":

  • Key management Criteria – where and when, what is the technology, traffic planning and impact, what infrastructure together with stakeholder and change management
  • A clear safety management plan – that identifies risks and how they will be managed and mitigated
  • Suitable Insurance – which will pose the beginning of a fundamental change for the way we think about vehicle insurance (see my earlier article)
  • Data collection and dissemination – particularly around any incidents (crashes or near misses)

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