Australian committee to explore social implications of driverless cars

Empty road stretching into the distance in australia

An Australian House of Representatives committee has announced that it is to hold an inquiry into the social implications of driverless vehicles

The Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources will seek to understand both the current and potential social issues relating to driverless vehicles in Australia.

In particular, it will explore which social issues are likely to be relevant for driverless vehicles and look at how each one is being handled.

It expects this work to cover areas such as general social acceptance levels, passenger and non-passenger safety, legal responsibility and insurance, the impact of driverless vehicles on industries such as the taxi industry, and accessibility issues.

The work will bridge an important knowledge gap in the growing body of research into driverless technology, according to Committee Chair Michelle Landry MP. 

“Our inquiry will focus on issues such as the social acceptance of the technology, how it might benefit Australians with limited mobility, and the potential social implications for driverless vehicles in the industrial and public transport sectors,” said Landry.

The Committee will consider different types of land-based driverless transport, including cars, trucks, buses and trains.

It will also look into different driverless options – such as directly controlled, remotely controlled and fully autonomous vehicles.

“Other investigations have started to address the technological aspects of driverless vehicles or possible regulatory approaches, and Australia is already at the forefront of using or trialling this new technology,” said Landry. 

“For example, there is currently a driverless shuttle bus on trial in Perth, millions of tonnes of iron ore are already being transported on driverless haulage trucks, and driverless trains are to be used on a new Sydney metro line.”

As it conducts its inquiry, the committee will keep in mind the experience of other jurisdictions and countries, and consider how Australia might best position itself to contribute to global driverless vehicle initiatives.

It will also look at the role to be played by the Australian government, the Australian Parliament and other jurisdictions and stakeholders as driverless vehicles are developed. 

Work is already underway in different Australian states to develop autonomous vehicles.

For example, South Australia recently announced that it will invest AU$10 million in connected and autonomous car technology, while the government of Victoria has partnered with Bosch to build Australia’s first self-driving vehicle.

Other countries have also been exploring the likely policy impact of autonomous vehicles. In the UK, for example, a parliamentary committee is conducting an inquiry into the future uses of driverless vehicles.

In recent weeks, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has heard evidence from Government ministers, officials, academics and representatives of the UK’s three driverless car trials, as it explores the Government’s plans to ensure that the UK can become a world leader in autonomous vehicles.