Latest News

Keep up! Our laws are not ready for driverless vehicles

May 13, 2016

Heavy vehicle drivers who fear losing their jobs to technology – in the form of driverless vehicles – don’t throw away your licences just yet.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) this week released a discussion paper that uncovers a number of barriers to increasing vehicle automation – and they’re not all technology-related.

The NTC is an inter-governmental agency created to help improve the productivity, safety and environmental performance of Australia’s road, rail and intermodal transport systems.

NTC Chief Executive Paul Retter dubs automated vehicles as “the biggest change to our transport system since cars replaced horses”.

In the discussion paper, titled Regulatory options for automated vehicles – May 2016, the NTC identifies that Australia’s laws are not up to speed with the impending changes.

“Amending these laws shouldn’t be hard, but making sure the new laws are nationally consistent and encourage innovation while ensuring the safety of all road users will be important,” Mr Retter said.

The paper highlights that there needs to be clarity around the status of automated vehicles on Australia’s roads, as well as a need to support further trials.  In the longer term other legislative barriers will need to be addressed to allow fully driverless vehicles in the future, the paper states.

Questions requiring specific answers

The NTC believes some of the questions that need to be resolved include:

  • How can governments enable on-road trials of automated vehicles nationally?
  • How can governments help clarify who is controlling a vehicle when the human driver is not driving? Or when control can alternate between a human and an automated driving system?
  • How should the requirement that a driver must have proper control of a vehicle be interpreted by police when there is no human driver?

What should happen to the range of laws that put obligations on a human driver of a vehicle such as:

  • rendering assistance after a crash;
  • complying with directions from police; and
  • paying any tolls or fines.

The NTC says it is also not clear whether people injured in a crash with an automated vehicle will always be able to make a claim under compulsory third party insurance or state-based accident compensation schemes.

How will all the issues raised by the NTC affect your Chain of Responsibility (CoR) obligations?

Would you feel comfortable if your transport operator began implementing levels of automation to its fleet? How would you ensure that the company was compliant which, in turn, affects your CoR obligations?

That’s just one reason you need to subscribe to CoR Adviser – to keep abreast of any automated vehicle trials and legislative changes that affect your business.

Written by legal experts in plain English, CoR Adviser has all the information you need, along with checklists, templates, downloads and case studies, located in the one place.

In the meantime, interested parties can have their say on the NTC’s discussion paper at the NTC’s website.

The NTC will analyse these submissions when making final recommendations to Australia’s transport ministers for their scheduled meeting in November 2016.