Today, autonomous vehicles are not even recognized by Australia’s existing laws and regulations, so how should Australia change those laws and regulations when a complex set of sensors, cameras, radars or lidar, and computers, not a human being, is in control of a car?



Men install a LIDAR system atop an autonomous vehicle for obstacle detection and avoidance.
(Photo courtesy Velodyne LiDAR)


This is the question the National Transport Commission (NTC) is trying to answer as the agency develops a regulatory system for automated vehicles in Australia.


“Evidence suggests that automated vehicle technology has the potential to improve safety, efficiency and mobility in our communities,” says NTC Chief Executive Paul Retter.


“However, there are important questions surrounding safety, insurance, the use of data, as well as how we define a driver in the context of an automated vehicle,” says Retter.


“These issues are being addressed by the NTC as part of a comprehensive program of work being undertaken in collaboration with all levels of government to create an end-to-end regulatory system for automated vehicles,” he said.


The NTC began to work on driverless vehicles in 2015 after the Transport and Infrastructure Council asked the Commission to identify regulatory barriers to safely introducing more automated road and rail vehicles in Australia.


In November 2016, Australian transport ministers agreed to a phased reform program so that conditionally automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on Australian roads before 2020, and highly and fully automated vehicles can operate from 2020 onward.


The NTC is charged with delivering this roadmap of reform. The next step is to gather the public's views on a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), which opened for comment on May 15.


Retter said, "We have produced the Consultation RIS to gather feedback on the four safety assurance options identified: no change to existing laws, and three options with various choices of safety assurance systems - administrative, legislative, and legislative with a primary safety duty of care on the entity responsible for the automated driving system,"


Self-certification by entities bringing automated driving systems to the Australian market was chosen as the preferred safety assurance approach of government and industry, following a publicNTC consultation in 2017.


The current Consultation RIS proposes 11 safety criteria that responsible entities would need to self-certify against, including: aspects of safety system design, compliance with road traffic laws, the ability for systems to be upgraded, mandated testing in Australia and cybersecurity.


Retter said, “Governments around the world are grappling with regulatory frameworks for automated vehicles, and we aim to ensure Australia’s safety assurance systems are best practice."


Submissions for the Consultation RIS can be made online on the NTC website <> until Monday, July 9, 2018.


Following consultation, the NTC will prepare a Decision RIS for consideration by Australia’s transport ministers in November 2018.


The Safety Assurance for Automated Driving Systems Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) is online for comment at:


By Sunny Lewis

Environment News Service (ENS)

June 8, 2018