Victoria’s Andrews Labor Government has confirmed it will investigate potential regulatory changes to accommodate “highly autonomous” vehicles on the state’s roads.
The study will include testing on open public roads early next year, all forming part of the government’s Future Directions Paper, currently in the consultation phase.
The announcement follows similar news out of South Australia, where the Weatherill Labor government has already approved autonomous vehicle testing on public roads.
South Australia also hosted Australia’s first driverless technology demonstration, with a group of Volvo XC90 vehicles used to showcase the potential for hands-free driving on a stretch of closed freeway in November last year.
Although South Australia has confirmed it will allow approved organisations to test autonomous technology alongside regular human commuters, none have yet hit the roads.
Victoria might therefore beat its neighbour to the punch, with the Andrews government confirming it will trial “a range” of autonomous vehicles along the Monash, Citylink and Tullamarine corridor.
The trials will be undertaken in partnership with Transurban, although it has yet to confirm which vehicles will be involved.
However, the first vehicles involved will be models that already comply with existing road rules, which rules out the likes of Google’s koala-looking prototype, but allows for autonomous-capable vehicles like the Tesla Model S, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and others.
One vehicle likely to star is the modified Tesla Model S prototype developed by the Australian arm of Bosch, which was revealed to the press during October’s Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Melbourne.
At the very least, the government has confirmed it will “build on the knowledge” gathered through the Bosch vehicle’s demonstrations in October.
The tests will see a human operator will be present in the driver’s seat at all times, ready to take back control as needed.
“Autonomous vehicles have enormous potential to make our journeys safer and more efficient, and to help the community to travel far more easily, including people with limited mobility,” the Victorian government said in its announcement.
Above: a Bosch engineer walks CarAdvice’s Mike Stevens through the features of the company’s modified Model S
Victorian roads minister Luke Donnellan said the trials form part of the government’s goals to improve travel and reduce the road toll, under its ongoing Towards Zero strategy.
“Keeping people safe on our roads is our number one priority and that’s why we’re running these innovative trials in the safest possible way for all road users.”
“By removing human error from the equation, autonomous vehicles will play a critical role in reducing deaths and serious injuries on Victorian roads.”
ARRB Group, the research and consulting body behind the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, believes that the nation’s $27 billion annual “road safety bill” could be reduced by up to 90 percent with the advent of driverless cars.
Feedback is sought on the Future Directions Paper, which can be found at https://engage.vicroads.vic.gov.au/on-road-trials-of-automated-vehicles
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