Driverless cars and road safety: keep in neutral but don’t wait too long

Don’t go it alone on autonomous vehicles says the New South Wales Joint Standing Committee on Road Safety after wrapping up a review of issues affecting state regulation.

Google, Telsa and another 30-odd companies have signalled they are ready to put driverless cars on the road, but there has been largely silence from regulators.

The National Transport Commission said Australia’s laws are not ready for driverless vehicles earlier this year as it launched a discussion paper on issues such as insurance, safety and tolls.

The NSW committee’s chair, Greg Alpin, backed the NTC leading the charge last week bowing the state out of any progress until all the states and territories could come to a unified position. He added that the technology to fundamentally change the lives for the better:

“While we agree that the road safety benefits of automated technology will be significant, we understand the concerns of vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. It is important that the technology meets the high performance standards and the community are educated about the potentially unfamiliar driving characteristics of automated vehicles.

“Delaying transition, however, will delay the road safety benefits without guarantee that the technology will be improved in the longer run. We believe it is a far better strategy to engage with the technology and enjoy the safety and other benefits as it develops, rather than be overly cautious.”

The committee wants to see state governments, specifically NSW, publishing a clear statement outlining the terms and conditions for trials. Without such guidance, progress won’t be made.

The NTC is expected to publish its final report in November.

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