Who's in control of a driverless car?

Australia's National Transport Commission (NTC) is calling for submissions about how the concepts of control and proper control in the Australian Road Rules should apply to automated vehicles.
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The autonomous Intellibus is being trialled in Perth. Photo: RAC

Australia's National Transport Commission (NTC) is calling for submissions about how the concepts of control and proper control in the Australian Road Rules should apply to automated vehicles.

The NTC released a discussion paper, Clarifying control of automated vehicles, calling for input on the development of national enforcement guidelines to clarify if the human driver or the automated driving system is in control at certain levels of driving automation.

NTC Chief Executive Paul Retter said agreement on a position about the definition of ‘proper control’ is a fundamental step in preparing Australia for the safe deployment of automated vehicles.

“Our existing road transport laws are based on the principle that the human driver is in control of the vehicle," he said.

"Vehicles with an automated driving system that can perform parts of the driving task challenge these concepts of control.”

Retter said it is important to arrive at an agreed position early to provide certainty for police and enforcement agencies.

“Agreeing on a nationally-consistent approach is also expected to provide more certainty for consumers, automotive manufacturers and insurers around the question of who may be liable for damages following a crash or incident involving automated vehicles," he said.

“National guidelines will help ensure drivers are treated consistently in different parts of the country.”

The discussion paper explores three key questions:

  • Who is in control of an automated vehicle – the human driver or the entity responsible for the automated driving system?
  • How should the proper control test apply to the human driver in vehicles at different levels of automation?
  • How should the proper control test apply to the automated driving system when it is engaged?

Submissions for this discussion paper are open until 4pm Friday, 2 June 2017 via the NTC website.

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[The autonomous Intellibus is being trialled in Perth. Photo: RAC]