NatRoad call for automation transition focus

Human factors central to ‘people first’ approach to automated vehicles introduction

NatRoad call for automation transition focus
Warren Clark highlights need to put people first


The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has asked the National Transport Commission (NTC) to give ‘human factors’ priority when considering the introduction of automated vehicles.

The call comes as international bodies advise that the lead-in for automated trucks on public roads needs attention to deal with impacts on drivers’ and company work situations and working out just how they share roads with the public.

In commenting on the NTC discussion paper Clarifying control of automated vehicles, NatRoad points out that direct member feedback was focused clearly on care and consideration of people first.

"Members’ comments emphasised two issues. First is the impact automated vehicles will have on their jobs. Second is the need to place safety at the forefront of the considerations that guide the introduction of higher levels of automation," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

"The NatRoad submission to the NTC emphasised that widespread use of automation was at least a decade away.  

"There will be a considerable period when both automated and non-automated vehicles will utilise the road network and that transitioning process will need close management by government to ensure that road safety is enhanced not reduced.

"During this time, upskilling and re-skilling of members to deal with the digital revolution should be a high priority.

"The system is in transition to a long-term situation where the laws governing the road cease being laws directed to humans but become encoded as software dictating how autonomous vehicles should navigate the transport network.

"At that time, the current manner in which the road rules operate will have much less relevance, if not obsolescence.

"But at present, in a period of transition, automated heavy vehicles should be treated in the same way as aircraft that are capable of flying on ‘autopilot’.

"Essentially, where a human has the ability to take control from the automated vehicle, responsibility should apply to that person."

The tone of Clark’s comments bolster Australian findings that acceptance of a future marked by autonomous trucks is widespread, though with expectations that this future will take time to evolve – a period that can be put to good use.

"The development of a complete regulatory framework to support the safe operation of automated vehicles is a long-term reform," he says.

"In the meantime, all changes to the law that are designed to accommodate increasing levels of automation of heavy vehicles must be viewed through the prism of putting safety of drivers and other road users first.

"Importantly, transport operators should not be left behind. Governments should be planning to make human factors a priority."

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