Automated vehicles

Over the coming decades, vehicles are expected to become more and more automated. The Australian Government is working closely with state and territory governments, industry and the research community to prepare Australia for the safe deployment of automated vehicles when the time comes.

Automated vehicles are motor vehicles that can perform the entire driving task on a sustained basis without human input, either in all conditions or in specific conditions. These vehicles are equipped with an automated driving system (ADS) – that is, a combination of hardware and software capable of performing the entire driving task without human input. Automated vehicles are being trialled in Australia and overseas, but are not yet available commercially or in general use on public roads in Australia.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS)

Many vehicles on Australian roads currently have some degree of automation through Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and park-assist. However, these features are intended to support the driver, require constant human oversight, and do not make the vehicle ‘automated’ in and of themselves. When ADAS features are engaged, the driver maintains responsibility for the driving task and must intervene if required to maintain safety.

Levels of driving automation

Vehicles can be classified into six different levels of automation, according to a taxonomy developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE): 0 (no automation); 1 (driver assistance); 2 (partial driving automation); 3 (conditional driving automation); 4 (high driving automation); and 5 (full driving automation). Automated vehicles align to Levels 3, 4 and 5.

SAE Level




Driver support features (not considered to be ‘automated driving’)


No automation

These features are limited to providing warnings and momentary assistance.

Lane departure warning


Driver assistance

These features provide steering or brake/acceleration support to the driver.

Lane keeping or adaptive cruise control


Partial driving automation

These features provide a combination of steering and brake/acceleration support to the driver.

Lane keeping and adaptive cruise control at the same time

Automated driving features


Conditional driving automation

These features can drive the vehicle under limited conditions and will not operate unless all required conditions are met, with the expectation that there will be a user receptive to requests to intervene as appropriate.

Traffic jam chauffeur


High driving automation

These features can drive the vehicle under limited conditions and will not operate unless all required conditions are met. No expectation that a user will need to intervene.

Local driverless taxi


Full driving automation

This feature can drive the vehicle under all conditions without any expectation that a user will need to intervene.

Same as Level 4 but feature can drive everywhere in all conditions

Adapted from: SAE Levels of Driving Automation™ Refined for Clarity and International Audience

Automated Vehicle Safety Law

Infrastructure and transport ministers, through the biannual Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting, have agreed on a national approach to regulating automated vehicles. In line with the National in-service safety framework for automated vehicles developed by the National Transport Commission, this will involve the development of a new Commonwealth law, the Automated Vehicle Safety Law. The law will deliver a nationally consistent regulatory approach to enable the safe operation of automated vehicles when they are deployed on Australian roads. More information about previous work on in-service safety for automated vehicles can be found on the National Transport Commission’s website.

The department is working with the National Transport Commission and state and territory governments to progress this work. The Automated Vehicle Safety Law is anticipated to commence in 2026.

The development of the Automated Vehicle Safety Law is also part of the National Land Transport Technology Action Plan.

Connected vehicles

Connected vehicles have the capability to communicate with other vehicles, other road users, roadside infrastructure and other wireless services, and operate within intelligent transport systems. This connectivity can help improve decision-making by drivers and, in turn, support improvements in road safety and efficiency.

At this stage, not all automated vehicles are connected vehicles, and not all connected vehicles are automated vehicles – however, the technology is expected to converge to produce vehicles that are both automated and connected.

How will automated vehicles affect me?

Automated vehicles have the potential to provide significant safety and economic benefits, including through improvements in:

  • road safety
  • mobility
  • accessibility
  • productivity
  • traffic congestion and
  • reductions in carbon emissions.

What’s next?

Transport technologies like automated vehicles are developing rapidly, with some technologies continuing to evolve even as they become commercially available. We will continue to work with the community, industry, and other governments, to make sure our policies and laws keep pace with automated vehicles technologies and the opportunities they create.