Australia's lawmakers need to grapple with complex issues like where fault lies in a car crash and how insurance claims will work with driverless vehicles before automated cars can take to the country's roads in force, according to the National Transport Commission.
The inter-government agency - which is responsible for improving the safety, productivity and environmental performance of Australia's transport systems - has outlined a number of barriers to the adoption of driverless vehicles in the country through a discussion paper released yesterday.
Following consultation, the NTC will make recommendations to Australia's transport ministers on how to regulate automated vehicles by November this year. It is accepting submissions until July 4.
The NTC said issues over the status of automated cars needed to be immediately addressed to support further trials of the technology, following initial pilots in South Australia.
More broadly, driverless vehicles cannot be widely deployed on Australia's roads until other legislative barriers are overcome, the NTC said.
NTC CEO Paul Retter called driverless vehicles the "the biggest change to our transport system since cars replaced horses".
His agency said governments needed to work out who they considered to be in control of a vehicle when it is in automated mode.
It suggested governments introduce national guidelines that clarify the meaning of 'control' and 'proper control' within the next two years.
The federal government should take the lead on national guidelines for state-based exemptions for onroad trials of driverless vehicles to ensure a consistent approach, the NTC said.
Within the next three to five years, governments should develop a safety assurance framework to oversee the deployment of automated vehicles while they work to remove legal barriers, the NTC said.
In the same timeframe, governments should expand the legislative meaning of 'driver' to include an automated driving system, and to hold the human driver or vehicle owner culpable when offences occur in driverless mode.
“Amending these laws shouldn’t be hard, but making sure the new laws are nationally consistent and encourage innovation while ensuring the safety of all road users will be important,” Retter said in a statement.