Proposed changes to the Victorian Road Safety Act and Crimes Act will open the door for more advanced autonomous tests on public roads.
Should the new amendments pass, self-driving test permit holders would be subject to the same legal obligations as human drivers under the current Road Safety Act and Crimes Act.
Permits will be granted to manufacturers who can prove they have the requisite safety management processes in place, and are performance-based.
The changes will allow Victoria to wholly adopt the National Transport Commission's guidelines for self-driving tests, and aim to remove any legal barriers standing in the way of self-driving tests in the state.
They're also designed to make sure trials are 100 per cent insured in case of an injury or accident, and allow the police to properly punish traffic offences and non-compliance with permit conditions. Who's going to be the first manufacturer snapped by a mobile speed camera?
As for when we'll be seeing autonomous vehicles on Melbourne roads? That depends on what you class as autonomous.
There are currently trials of semi-autonomous driver assists on EastLink, the Tullamarine Freeway and CityLink, designed to better understand how line markings and road signs impact their operation.
“In terms of when it might happen, I’m cautious about making a prediction on that, but yes, that is the technology that is coming our way, and we will need to look at how we can accommodate the testing for that,” he said. “As for when it will happen? It might be five or six years away, but that’s very much what we’re preparing ourselves for.”
Victoria and South Australia are racing to position themselves as 'hubs' for autonomous testing, something the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) is keen to support. Given its name, that shouldn't be surprising.
"The timeline, or time horizon, for learning very quickly what this technology is, how it can be applied to Australia, is in the next few years,” Rita Excell, executive director, ADVI Centre of Excellence, told CarAdvice.
“By 2020 we’ve got most vehicle manufacturers saying they’re going to be producing cars that don’t have a steering wheel, their computers do most of the driving… Now is really the time to learn by doing and understanding what is the best opportunity for Australia and Australian driving conditions – [understanding] what sort of technology will suit Australia best.”
MORE: Autonomous driving news