A look through the regulations and guidelines shows that there is a lot to like. The most intriguing points I noticed were:
- It provides essentially unlimited technical flexibility to the companies building the ADS vehicles while still providing a way to ensure safety. The approach is a simple two-parter:
- The testing permit holders have to explain why they will be safe via a safety management plan.
- If the vehicle testing doesn't follow the safety management plan or acts unsafely on the roads, the testing permit can be revoked.
There are many other interesting and on-target discussions in the guidelines. They include the need to reduce risk as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP); accounting for the Australian road safety approach of: safe speeds, safe roads, safe vehicles, safe people during testing; transition issues between ADS and supervisor; the need to drive in a predictable way to interact safely with human drivers; and a multi-page list of issues to be considered by the safety plan. There is also a list of other laws that come into play.Here are some pointers for those who want to look further.
- Victorian Guidelines for Trials of Automated Vehicles from Sept 2018.
- 2018 Road Safety Regulations for Autonomous Vehicles (S.R. No. 120/2018) from Sept. 2018. It is important to note that this is an actual law, not just optional guidance.
- An amendment to the Road Safety Act addressing automated vehicles from Feb 2018. Similarly, this is actual law.
- Current automated vehicle trials in Australia
- 2017 on-road test guidelines for Australia (historical comparison)
- A 2017 research paper that summarizes ADS policies globally
The regulations were created according to the following criteria from a 2009 Transportation bill:
- Transportation system objectives:
- Social and economic inclusion
- Economic prosperity
- Environmental sustainability
- Integration of transport and land use
- Efficiency, coordination and reliability
- Safety and health and well being
- Decision making principles:
- Principle of integrated decision making
- Principle of triple bottom line assessment
- Principle of equity
- Principle of the transport system user perspective
- Precautionary principle
- Principle of stakeholder engagement and community participation
- Principle of transparency.
Here is a list of key features of the Road Safety (Automated Vehicles) Regulations 2018:
- The purpose of an ADS permits scheme (see regulation 5):
- For trials of automated driving systems in automated mode of public roads
- To enable a road authority to monitor and manage the use and impacts of the automated driving system on a highway
- To enable VicRoads to perform its functions under the Act and the Transport Integration Act
- Identifies the safety risks of the ADS trials
- Identifies the risks to the reliability, security and operation of the automated driving system to be used in the ADS trial
- Specifies what the applicant will do to eliminate or reduce those risks so far as is reasonably practicable; and
- Addresses the safety criteria set out in the ADS guidelines
- speeding, traffic light, give way and level crossing offence
- theft or carjacking
- tampering with, unauthorised access to, modification of, or impairment of an automated driving system
- failure of an automated driving system of an automated vehicle that would impair the reliability, security or operation of that automated driving system.
(I would not at all be surprised if there are issues with these regulations that emerge over time. My primary point is that it looks to me like responsible regulation can be done in a way that does not pick technology winners and does not unnecessarily hinder innovation. This looks to be excellent source material for other regions to apply in a way suitable to their circumstances.)