NTC seeks feedback on driving laws change

Retter says existing laws need overhaul to adapt to automated vehicle future

NTC seeks feedback on driving laws change
Retter says legislation must recognise a legal entity that can be held responsible for automated driving systems.


The National Transport Commission (NTC) is calling for stakeholder feedback on how the existing driving rules should be amended to facilitate the introduction of automated vehicles.

Releasing a new discussion paper, Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles, the transport commission invites input from road transport agencies, police and the industry.

The paper seeks to clarify how current driver and driving laws apply to automated vehicles and who would be legally responsible for their operation.

It raises 14 important questions relating to current driver laws, with the key question being: "Should driving laws change to allow an automated driving system (ADS) to drive – rather than a human – and ensure that an entity is responsible for the actions of the vehicle when the ADS is driving?"

The NTC is seeking feedback on options to reform laws to achieve this and other issues that arise if the ADS is legally permitted to drive.

NTC chief executive Paul Retter says the current driving laws were developed before automated vehicles were envisaged, thus assuming the driver is a human.

"The introduction of more automated vehicles will see elements of the driving task shift away from the human driver to the automated driving system but our laws currently don’t recognise these systems," Retter says.

"We need to ensure that relevant driving laws apply to automated vehicles when the automated driving system – rather than the human driver – is operating the vehicle."

This work is one of seven projects – five of which are being led by the NTC and a further two led by the states/territories but for which the NTC is coordinating the findings and subsequent ministerial recommendations.

These projects were approved by ministers in November 2016 as part of the NTC’s roadmap of reform to support the commercial deployment of automated vehicles.

"We have been tasked with identifying, and if necessary, removing, legislative impediments to automated vehicles," Retter says.

"But we must also maintain the intent of existing laws – to ensure the safe operation of vehicles on Australian roads."

"Legislation must recognise a legal entity that can be held responsible for the automated driving system," Retter says.

Following the consultation, the NTC will present reform options to transport ministers in May next year.

Submissions are open until 4pm, November 24 via the NTC website.

This project is closely aligned to the NTC’s work on developing a safety assurance system.

The outcomes of the safety assurance work will also inform the recommendations of this project.

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