Transport policy makers, technology experts, vehicle developers and the wider Australian community have been petitioned to shape new and appropriate laws to maximise the benefits of automated vehicles.


The National Transport Commission (NTC) recently released an issues paper calling for submissions from the public on how to develop the best laws and regulations for emerging road and rail technologies.


Chief Executive of the NTC Paul Retter said Australia’s current laws and regulations weren’t written with automated vehicles in mind, but now that increasingly automated vehicles were being developed it was time to look closely at what changes may be needed.


“Automated vehicles will be safer, more productive and give senior Australians and those with a disability more independence in their lives. However, the benefits offered by these vehicles will only be realised if we get Australia’s laws and regulations right,” said Mr Retter.


“Governments and industry need to work together to make sure Australians get the best laws for these new vehicles.


“While we have already identified a number of potential issues we are asking anyone with an interest in the future of transport to have their say. This feedback will help to make sure we address all of the issues associated with automated vehicles.


“For example, many road safety laws assume that there will always be a human driver, but how do automated vehicles comply with a legal requirement to hold a driver’s license, or comply with authorised officers or give assistance if a person is injured?


“The NTC will need to look at fundamental concepts including defining the driver, what is meant by ‘control of the vehicle’ and consider how automated vehicles should interact with other road users.”


Mr Retter said the NTC would work to ensure future regulations promote innovation and competition, and continue to remain consistent with international standards and conventions whenever it is safe and appropriate to do so.


He said many different types of automated vehicles would be developed in the future and therefore the NTC will consider a flexible and performance-based regulatory approach that helps to encourage new transport technology.


Submissions to the issues paper are due by Tuesday, 8 March 2016. These submissions will help the NTC develop a discussion paper with detailed options analysis to be published.


Australian automotive technology in the fast lane


2017 will see the closure of the the Holden manufacturing plant in Elizabeth, South Australia, with Holden joining the ranks of other car assembly lines consigning their Australian operations to the dustbin of history.


However, in a time of immense digital disruption facing all aspects of Australia’s manufacturing sectors, there is a steady amount of progress being made in the fields of automotive technology.


One shining example is Cohda Wireless, a North Adelaide-based company and leading producer of wireless sensory systems that allow driverless cars to share their sensor data with other high tech vehicles.


What this means is that two different vehicles can effectively “talk” to each other, allowing for less risk of an accident.
Cohda says it supplies the equipment in more than 60 per cent of vehicle involved in Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) trials globally, and Cohda products have undergone almost one million vehicle-days of testing in these trials.


As car makers move to include the technology in their vehicles, Cohda chief executive officer Paul Gray acknowledges there are many opportunities for those developing ‘smart car’ applications. His company now has offices in Detroit in the United States and Munich in Germany – hubs of the global automotive manufacturing network. “Car makers are trying to find solutions as as quickly as they can,” he said.


South Australia became the first state in the nation to allow autonomous vehicle demonstration trials. The trails, which took place on the Southern Expressway in November last year, included multiple vehicles conducting maneuvers such as overtaking, lane changing, emergency braking and the use of on and off ramps.


South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill embraced the technology and its implications for the wider automotive industry and Australian economy, saying at the time that: “This trial presents a fantastic opportunity for South Australia to take a lead nationally and internationally in the development of this new technology and open up new opportunities for our economy. It’s predicted that within just 15 years, the international driverless car industry will be worth $90 billion.”