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Australia agree to implement new driving laws for autonomous vehicles

Australia's transport ministers have formally announced that they will introduce new legislation that will pave the way for the formulation of new national driving laws for autonomous vehicles. As part of a co-ordinated and joint approach from a number of states and territories in the country - a new national law is expected to be drafted into place by 2020.

The CEO of Australia's National Transport Commission, Paul Retter said the new law will end speculation and bring clarity to manufacturers and operators who are keen to deliver and provide autonomous vehicles and self-driving technology to the country.

The CEO of the NTC said, "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. Without a change to existing laws or a 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."

In addition to this, Retter also highlighted that the belief of the National Transport Commission was to adopt a uniformed approach nationally, declaring that this strategy would be effective in assisting both autonomous vehicle manufacturers and the general public in terms of understanding the legal framework they are operating  in. It's hoped this approach will also accelerate the development and subsequent deployments of autonomous cars in Australia.

At a recent meeting, it was disclosed that transport ministers all agreed to take a uniformed approach across all states and territories to ensure there is always a legal entity in charge of driving when an automated driving system is engaged.

The projected date for the introduction of driving laws is 2020, and that would be in time for the anticipated commercial rollout of autonomous vehicles in Australia.

Retter said changing driving laws to support automated vehicles are set out in the NTC policy paper - and the Commission had proposed the introduction of a uniform law 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.