Driverless cars challenge existing road rules

 

TRANSPORT ministers are being urged to develop national road rules to cope with the complex challenge of integrating driverless cars onto the nation's highways.

The call comes as the looming arrival of autonomous cars threatens to outpace government efforts to roll out new regulations covering everything from road rules, liability for death, injury and property damage, insurance, privacy and data.

Shine Lawyers senior associate Sarah Grace said Australia was on the "precipice of a revolution" in travel and questioned whether legislators were prepared.

"Its one of those things where the law always seems to be behind the technology," she said.

She said a radical revamp of legislation and road rules was required to cope with the dozens of laws that would need overhauling to deal with the move from human drivers to machines.

"At the moment the legislation is all based around a human driver, someone who has control, so they use the words 'driver control' and all of that will need to be changed to incorporate the terminology of an automated driving system or driverless vehicle," she said.

 

As car companies such as Volvo unveil concept plans for future autonomous vehicles, regulators are scrambling to unpick hundreds of pieces of legislation that will need to be changed to ensure they can operate safely on Australian roads.
As car companies such as Volvo unveil concept plans for future autonomous vehicles, regulators are scrambling to unpick hundreds of pieces of legislation that will need to be changed to ensure they can operate safely on Australian roads.

The National Transport Commission has been working on the problem since 2017 when it identified 700 "barriers" in current state and federal legislation and is set to deliver a suite of recommendations to relevant minister by mid-2020.

NTC executive leader future technologies Marcus Burke said they were considering whether national road rules and a national regulator would be required.

Consensus has already been reached on some sticking points such as that the company bringing an automated driving system to market will have legal responsibility for that system while operating in automated mode.

A Queensland Transport Department spokesman said the technology was challenging existing transport laws that were drafted under the assumption a person was responsible for a vehicle.

"We believe a nationally consistent approach is required to regulating the safety of automated vehicles," he said.

Queensland University of Technology Professor Andry Rakotonirainy said insurance companies would be in a "difficult situation" because they don't have any evidence based data to help set accurate premiums.


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