South Australia has taken an important step to becoming one of the few regions in the world that allows autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads alongside regular human motorists.
This month, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan introduced The Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill to the South Australian parliament, opening the door to an industry that experts project to be worth $90 billion in 15 years.
The bill will allow autonomous vehicle projects to operate on public roads, exempt from laws that require moving vehicles to be under full and active hands-on control at all times.
“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.
“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.”
The legislation is also intended to provide for safeguards for the public, while also requiring advance notice of all planned trials. Organisations hoping to test their technologies in South Australia will need to submit plans for review by the transport department, police, and other agencies.
Plans for the new legislation were first revealed in February, and July brought news that the southern hemisphere’s first-ever autonomous vehicle tests would be hosted on public South Australian roads - albeit on closed-off sections.
The Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative will take place on a closed stretch of Adelaide’s Southern Expressway on November 7-8. The trial will be operated by research organisation ARRB Group and a range of partners that include Volvo, Bosch and Telstra, among others.
The introduction of this amended bill also means that while November’s tests will be a first, they likely won’t be the last.
It is also unlikely that South Australia, despite this head-start, will be the only state to welcome the valuable driverless vehicle industry.
“The amendments proposed to the Motor Vehicles in South Australia are inevitable in every state and territory, and we congratulate Minister Mullighan for being the first to act,” ARRB Group managing director Gerard Waldron said.
“The ARRB Australian Driverless Vehicles Initiative is designed to ensure the safe introduction of driverless vehicles on to our roads and we will be working with all governments to make that happen.”