Regulatory Options to Assure Automated Vehicle Safety in Australia

Automated vehicles that do not require human driver input into the driving task for at least part of the journey are expected to arrive on our roads from around 2020. Currently there is no explicit regulation covering these automated driving functions. Manufacturers are aiming to ensure automated driving functionality improves road safety, but this technology may also create safety risks for road users.
Australian governments have started work to remove legislative barriers to increasingly automated road vehicles. These barriers relate primarily to road traffic laws that implicitly require a human driver. Without further action, once these barriers have been removed, governments would have no regulatory mechanism to proactively ensure automated driving technologies are safe. Automated driving technologies are progressively undertaking more of the driving task, and it is likely this technology will improve road safety, mobility, productivity and environmental outcomes. However, the technology is highly innovative and diverse and requires further testing and evaluation. From a regulatory perspective, there are four key issues:
  • Should governments have a role assuring the safety of automated vehicles?
  • What are our measures of safety, and what is the level of safety required?
  • How does a safety assurance system balance safety outcomes with innovation, certainty and regulatory efficiency?
  • Where does a safety assurance system fit within the existing regulatory framework for road transport, and how does it interact with existing laws?
In November 2016 the Transport and Infrastructure Council directed the National Transport Commission (NTC) to develop a national performance-based assurance regime designed to ensure the safe operation of automated vehicles. This will form a key component of an end-to-end regulatory framework to support the safe commercial operation of automated vehicles.
The NTC has released a consultation paper and is seeking feedback on four options:
1.      Continue current approach –no additional regulatory oversight, with an emphasis on existing safeguards in Australian Consumer Law and road transport laws.
2.      Self-certification – manufacturers make a statement of compliance against high-level safety criteria developed by government. This could be supported by a primary safety duty to provide safe automated vehicles.
3.      Pre-market approval – automated driving systems are certified by a government agency as meeting minimum prescribed technical standards prior to market entry.
4.      Accreditation – accreditation agency accredits an automated driving system entity. The accredited party demonstrates it has identified and managed safety risks to a legal standard of care
Based on feedback received, recommendations will be made to transport ministers in November 2017 on the preferred approach and the next steps to implement any required changes to legislation.
Further information about this review can be found on the NTC website: