Australian inquiry highlights driverless vehicle concerns

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An inquiry by an Australian House of Representatives committee has concluded that public engagement will be vital if the expected benefits of automated vehicles are to be realised in Australia.

As it concluded its inquiry into the social implications of land-based driverless vehicles, the Industry, Innovations, Science and Resources Committee published a report with its recommendations for the sector.

During its inquiry, the Committee heard about the likely benefits of, and concerns about, automated vehicles.

People need to feel that automated vehicles are safe, that their privacy is safeguarded and that all legal questions are resolved before there will be general social acceptance of automated vehicles.
— Committee Chair Michelle Landry MP

The Committee’s report highlighted a number of these anticipated benefits, including better road safety outcomes, increased mobility for those unable to drive themselves, potential applications for public transport, and improvements to traffic congestion, urban design and productivity.

However, the Committee stressed that concerns and unanswered questions about automated vehicles remain, in areas such as data security, safety ethics, legal liability and insurance, access for people in regional and rural Australia and the impacts of automated driving on employment.



In its report, the Committee recommended that the Government should facilitate and encourage automated vehicle trials in Australia, especially those that will allow members of the public to experience automated vehicles on public roads.

To address potential vulnerabilities relating to automation, the report also called for Australia’s National Cyber Security Strategy to investigate automated vehicles and associated transport systems.

Additionally, the report urged the Government to establish a joint working party to identify industry needs and ensure Australia can exploit the opportunities presented by driverless vehicles.

The Committee also encouraged the Government to consider how automated vehicles can meet the needs of people with disabilities, older Australians and those living in regional and rural areas.

Meanwhile, to coordinate Australia’s preparations for land-based automated vehicles and the associated social issues, the report suggested the Government consider the merits of establishing either a dedicated national body or a cross-agency taskforce to work with vehicle and software manufacturers.

While technological problems can be solved and regulatory barriers are already being addressed, said Committee Chair Michelle Landry MP, it is vital that the views and concerns of Australians regarding driverless vehicles are taken into account.

“As so many of the Committee’s witnesses told us, people need to feel that automated vehicles are safe, that their privacy is safeguarded and that all legal questions are resolved before there will be general social acceptance of automated vehicles,” said Landry.