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Optimism for Office of Future Transport Technologies

Safety and productivity at forefront of automated ambitions


Peak industry and automotive groups have unanimously welcomed the Office of Future Transport Technologies, the government body created to help prepare for automated vehicles and transport innovations.

Announced recently by infrastructure and transport minister Michael McCormack, the $9.7 million investment is designed to “coordinate more cohesively with other governments and agencies to implement future transport technologies in Australia more successfully and responsibly”.

The announcement is a continuation of its focus in intelligent transport systems, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the US state of Michigan for knowledge-sharing in this space.

The National Transport Commission (NTC), which has been vocal about the importance of implementing policy frameworks for emerging technologies, described the investment as a responsible step forward.

“Automated vehicles are one of the biggest changes to transport since the introduction of the car,” NTC acting chief executive Geoff Allan says.

“The NTC looks forward to working with the Office of Future Transport Technologies as we continue to build an end-to-end regulatory system for automated vehicles in Australia.”

The NTC has previously voiced its concerns over automated technology data proliferation, releasing a discussion paper to garner industry input on the matter, but welcomed the new body as a means of working towards a mutual solution.

“The NTC will continue our work on safety assurance for automated vehicles, changing driver laws, government access to data, and motor accident injury insurance to support the commercial deployment of automated vehicles,” Alan says.

“Providing that coordinating role across government, particularly where it involves non-transport agencies, will be important to help Australia make this transition safely and smoothly.”

Federal government confirms importance of how information is controlled. Read more, here

The Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) also lauded the announcement, which it says should contribute towards addressing safety and productivity aspects of Australia’s growing freight task.

“The Australian heavy vehicle industry has a culture of innovation highlighted by our high-productivity combinations and the Performance Based Standards scheme,” HVIA chief executive Todd Hacking says.

“We hope that an independent government office will consider all blockages to enabling the uptake of the safest and most productive possible vehicles, and ensuring they are given appropriate access to every city and every town.”

In particular, the HVIA hopes an outcome of the body is the reduction of Australia’s trucking fleet age.

“The highest priority is to incentivise a reduction in the heavy vehicle fleet age and the uptake of safety technologies for heavy vehicles,” Hacking  says.

“Australia has one of the oldest truck fleets in the western world at over 14 years; in fact, 16 per cent of the fleet (some 73,000 vehicles) are aged between 15 and 22 years old.

“We know these vehicles are less safe than their modern counterparts and we know when a new safety feature is mandated by the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) it takes over 20 years to be universal in the heavy vehicle fleet.”

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) also welcomed the move but reiterated that the government must do more towards achieving better safety outcomes on Australia’s roads.  

It noted that “automated vehicles have potential to enhance Australia’s road safety and traffic management” but stressed the importance of “leadership at the federal level [to] help manage the opportunities and challenges of this emerging technology – and ensure that it is deployed safely”.

The AAA has been advocating for the uptake of proven vehicle safety technologies and innovation as one of the 12 recommendations of the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) 2011-20.

In its statement it continues to call for the Government to establish a national road safety organisation “proportionate to the scale of the problem”.

Meanwhile, Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Australia says businesses here stand to benefit from new opportunities and create a supportive environment for innovation in a rapidly expanding industry.

“The ITS industry is continually working to deliver safer transport systems, reduce congestion and increase transport options,” ITS Australia CEO Susan Harris adds.

“By engaging with the Office for Future Transport Technologies, ITS Australia and the Australian ITS Industry can continue to shape future transport in Australia by working with the Government to identify projects and products that will improve safety, productivity, accessibility and liveability for Australians in both urban and regional areas – the very aspects the Government wishes to address.”

There was also support from transport research and product development consortium iMove and safety body ANCAP.


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