Automated vehicles

Automated vehicles 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.

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.

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 Name Description Examples
Driver support features (not considered to be ‘automated driving’)
0 No automation These features are limited to providing warnings and momentary assistance. Lane departure warning
1 Driver assistance These features provide steering or brake/acceleration support to the driver. Lane keeping or adaptive cruise control
2 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
3 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
4 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
5 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

Current Australian laws do not allow for the use of automated vehicles on public roads. Australia needs to update its regulatory frameworks for vehicles to ensure the safe operation and use of automated vehicles on public roads.

Infrastructure and transport ministers, through the Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting, have agreed on a national approach to regulating automated vehicles. The department is working with the National Transport Commission and state and territory governments to implement this national approach.

A new law called the Automated Vehicle Safety Law (AVSL) will be an important part of this framework. The AVSL is being developed by the department in line with the National in-service safety framework for automated vehicles developed by the National Transport Commission. and as The AVSL will deliver a nationally consistent regulatory approach to ensure the safe operation of automated vehicles on Australian roads.

The AVSL will place the responsibility for the safety of an automated driving system on a corporation and not the human driver. This corporation will need to have the right skills, capacity and capabilities to look after the automated driving system over its operational lifetime. The corporation will be known as the Automated Driving System Entity. 

The new Automated Vehicle Safety Law will be supported by complementary changes to state and territory legislation and to existing Commonwealth legislation such as the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018. Together these laws will form the end-to-end regulatory framework. This includes:

  • making sure an automated vehicle is safe when it is first supplied in Australia, including that it meets any relevant technical standards for an automated driving system
  • ensuring that there is a corporation (the Automated Driving System Entity) with the right skills and capabilities to take responsibility for the safety of the automated driving system for its on-road life
  • keeping the automated driving system safe when it is operating on the road by placing clear safety duties and other obligations on the Automated Driving System Entity
  • ensuring that people that use and interact with an automated vehicle understand what their roles and responsibilities are.
  • These laws will create the regulatory arrangements to enable safe operation of automated vehicles on our roads and should help Australia to gain the potential benefits of automated vehicles.

What’s next?

The department and the National Transport Commission are currently undertaking public consultation on the proposed automated vehicle regulatory framework. 
The consultation includes specific policy areas that we are seeking feedback on before we settle a way forward. The department and the National Transport Commission are seeking your feedback by 11 June.

Safety is important for all road users and we want your input to ensure that future legislation aligns with the needs and expectations of industry and the community. Your feedback is crucial to ensuring the regulatory settings strike the right balance.

For more information and to have your say visit: http://www.ntc.gov.au/AV-safety-reform