Laws will allow driverless car trials on open SA roads

Sep 22, 2015
A Volvo driverless car in action. Image supplied

A Volvo driverless car in action. Image supplied

South Australia will lay claim to an Australian first this week when the State Government introduces laws allowing for trials of driverless cars on open public roads.

A trial set for Adelaide’s Southern Expressway in early November doesn’t require legislative change because the road will be closed.

However, the Bill to be introduced tomorrow by Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan will allow autonomous vehicles to be trialled on open public roads in South Australia.

The Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill will provide exemptions from existing laws to allow the trials of the emerging technology.

“This legislation will facilitate public road testing, unlike many other countries which offer only selected roads or small, restricted geographical areas,” Mullighan said.

He said the legislation provided safeguards, including requiring companies to submit detailed trial plans to the Government for approval. Companies will need “sufficient insurances” to protect the public, with penalties still applying if tests breach road laws beyond the scope of the trial.

“It is critical that the public has confidence that these trials will operate safely on our roads,” he said.

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan in a Tesla car, with the capacity to drive autonomously. Supplied image

Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan in a Tesla car which has the capacity to drive autonomously. Supplied image

The legislation requires notice of any trials to be published at least one month in advance on the Department for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure website. A report on each trial will need to be tabled before both houses of parliament within six months of completion.

Google has been trialling its driverless vehicle on open roads in the US, where a handful of states have made it legal.

A recent US report noted the vehicles had been involved in a smattering of crashes – mostly due to the mistakes of humans on the road.

Safety is one of the benefits most commonly pushed in relation to driverless technology, with proponents arguing that taking human error out of driving will save countless lives.

Mullighan argues the “real-life” testing of the technology will put SA at the forefront of an industry he says will be worth $90 billion in 15 years.

“We are on the cusp of the biggest advance in motoring since the since the Model T opened up car ownership to the masses,”  Mullighan said.

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“In July, when we announced that South Australia would host the first trials of driverless cars in the Southern Hemisphere, we sent a message to the world that our state is open for business.

“South Australia is now positioned to become a key player in this emerging industry and by leading the charge, we are opening up countless new opportunities for our businesses and our economy.”

In July, Premier Jay Weatherill announced Australia’s first on-road trial of driverless cars would take place on a closed Southern Expressway on 7-8 November.

Driverless vehicles will take to the expressway to test manoeuvres such as overtaking, lane changing, emergency braking and using the on and off ramps.

The trial will coincide with an international conference on driverless cars to be held in Adelaide.

At the opening of the new Parliament early this year, the State Government announced that driverless vehicles were on its agenda for the coming term. InDaily revealed the Government announcement came a short time after Mullighan visited Google’s research facility in California, where he was impressed by the company’s progress in driverless technology.

The trials in Adelaide would involve vehicles from Swedish motoring giant Volvo, with testing to be undertaken in conjunction with Flinders University, Carnegie Mellon University, the RAA and Adelaide technology company Cohda Wireless.

National independent road research agency, ARRB Group, will lead the trial.



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