Legislation passed recently in the Victorian Parliament allows driverless vehicles to be trialled across the state as part of a two-year trial program.
Last August, as phase one of the program, the government partnered with VicRoads, RACV and Transurban to run an automated vehicle trial on the Monash-CityLink-Tullamarine corridor, using vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and Volvo.
Now, with changes to the Road Safety Act, VicRoads will be able to grant permits to individuals or organisations wanting to conduct on-road trials of automated vehicles.
Under the new laws, all driverless vehicle trials will require a human supervisor to monitor the vehicle from either inside or outside the vehicle. Once it has been established a vehicle can drive safely, this condition may be removed to allow the vehicle to drive in automated mode in limited circumstances without a supervisor.
A similar law was established in South Australia in June 2016. According to Motoring, Victoria’s move follows a report in January by global consulting group KPMG, saying Australia has dropped to 14th place out of 20 countries for autonomous vehicle readiness.
This is mainly because Australian law still requires autonomous vehicles to have a human driver. The Netherlands, which allows autonomous vehicle trials without a driver, and has more than 1000 traffic lights capable of communicating with autonomous cars, topped the rankings.
Automated vehicles are an important step to reducing road trauma, with human error contributing to more than 90% of crashes. They have enormous potential to make journeys safer and more efficient, and to help the community travel with more ease, including people with limited mobility through disability.
Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan has also announced a $9 million grant program to support the development of vehicles with connected and automated technology and safety features.