The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released guidelines about how the requirement of proper control in the Australia Road Rules should apply to vehicles with automated functions. The NTC is the body responsible for developing law reform proposals to apply to and accommodate vehicle automation.
Australia’s current road traffic laws are based on the premise that the driver must not drive a vehicle unless the driver has ‘proper control’. The concept of ‘proper control’ has been challenged by the emergence of vehicle automation.
The guidelines provide:
- for who is responsible for compliance with road traffic laws and examples of behaviours indicating ‘proper control’ by a human driver in control of a vehicle with some degree of automation;
- that it is the human driver who will be responsible for complying with road traffic laws, even when a vehicle has ‘conditional automation’ engaged at that particular point in time;
- that there is a distinction between varying levels of automation, such that the guidelines:
- only apply to vehicles whose level of automation requires input from the human driver (whether that be full or partial control or only supervision and object detection); and
- do not apply to vehicles described as operating at a ‘high or full level of automation’, because it is not expected that those vehicles will be commercially released on the market until 2020 (in the case of vehicles with ‘high automation’ and beyond (in the case of ‘full automation’).
- for how enforcement agencies should interact with automated vehicles, and how human drivers could demonstrate vehicle automation was engaged and the level of that automation at a particular point in time.
The guidelines do not extend to the question of civil liability or criminal responsibility for a crash or road trauma.
The next stage in the development of law reform to address the introduction of automated vehicles will be for proposed amendments to be drafted to Australia’s road traffic laws which reflect and implement the guidelines.
The full guidelines can be viewed by clicking here.