Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Connected and automated vehicles

Connected vehicles are vehicles that use information and communication technologies to communicate with the driver, other road users, roadside infrastructure and other wireless services. Automated vehicles are vehicles that are able to control one or more of the primary driving controls (such as steering, acceleration or braking) without the need for human input.

At this stage, not all automated vehicles are connected vehicles. However, as technology develops and automated vehicles require less human input, they will necessarily need to be connected so that they can respond to external signals such as a speed sign, a traffic light or a pedestrian stepping in front of them.

Levels of automation

Automated vehicles are classified into six different levels, according to a standard developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Automation levels are based on the amount of human input required to operate the vehicle, from Level 0 (driver must perform all driving tasks) to Level 5 (vehicle can drive itself without any human involvement).

Level 1 and 2

Side view inside a navy blue car with orange head and tail lights. An orange person is sitting in the driver’s seat with their hands on the steering wheel. There are two dotted orange lines projecting from their eyes, one through the windscreen and one to the rear vision mirror.
  • Vehicle assists with driving
  • Person watches the road with hands on steering wheel and intervenes when required
  • Includes features such as adaptive cruise control, lane assistance and parking assistance

Level 3

Side view inside a navy blue car with orange head and tail lights. An orange person is sitting in the front driver’s seat with their right leg on the floor pedal. Dotted orange lines show that the person is looking at the wheel and pedals of the car.
  • Vehicle drives itself some of the time
  • Person not required to watch the road but, in some circumstances, must respond to requests to take back control
  • Includes advanced driver assistance features such as traffic jam assist, which allows drivers to delegate driving in traffic jams to the car, with no supervision required.

Level 4

side view inside a navy blue car with orange head and tail lights. An orange person is sitting in the front driver’s seat and is not touching the steering wheel or pedals.
  • Vehicle drives itself all of the time under certain conditions
  • Person not required to take action when the system is driving
  • Includes vehicles that are 'driverless' on some routes, such as automated shuttle buses or taxis.

Level 5

side view inside a navy blue car with orange head and tail lights. An orange person is sitting in the back seats of the car reading a blue book.
  • Vehicle drives itself all of the time, under all conditions
  • Person is never required to drive or take action.

Many vehicles on Australian roads currently have some degree of Level 1 or Level 2 automation through driver assistance features such as lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and park-assist. Vehicles with more advanced levels of automation (Level 3 and above) are currently being trialled in Australia and overseas, but are not yet commercially available.

Over the coming decades, vehicles will become more and more automated. Eventually a human may not need to drive at all. Experts are divided about when a truly ‘driverless’ vehicle will be available, but Australian governments are working together to ensure these vehicles can be used safely and legally when the time comes.

How will CAVs affect me?

Below are some examples that explain how CAVs might change the way Australians live.

Example 1

Ian currently drives a car. He enjoys driving, so he doesn’t plan on buying or using a CAV when they eventually become available on the market.

Over the next few decades, Ian could find himself sharing the road with CAVs. These CAVs will comply with Australia’s vehicle design rules, ensuring they are safe to drive on Australian roads, and able to co-exist with non-automated vehicles, like Ian’s. They will also need to have appropriate insurance cover to drive on roads.

By the time CAVs are allowed on Australian roads, governments will have agreed on who will be responsible if a CAV causes a crash. If Ian gets in an accident with a CAV, the damage will be covered by a motor insurance scheme. Motor insurance schemes will provide the same level of care, treatment, benefit and compensation regardless of whether incidents involve CAVs or human-operated vehicles.

Example 2

Judith has a severe spinal injury that prevents her from driving a conventional vehicle. Due to her condition, she struggles to use public transport. Judith’s family and friends are happy to help her out by giving her rides when they can, but this limits when she’s able to travel. Occasionally, she uses taxi or ride-sharing services, but finds it is too expensive to do often.

When CAVs become available, Judith will have a number of extra options to help improve her mobility. CAVs are expected to lower costs of transport, including door-to-door transport services such as car-sharing or ride-sharing services. This means Judith could potentially use ride-sharing services more frequently. Of course, she could also choose to buy and own a CAV, which she could then use whenever she wants.

The options above will give Judith more choice when it comes to activities such as scheduling and attending medical appointments, going to impromptu social events, and even when she can do the groceries. This could lead to improvements in other areas of Judith’s life, such as her health and wellbeing.

Example 3

Jack doesn’t own a car and currently catches public transport every day to get to work. The closest train station from his house is a 15-minute bike ride away. When it rains, Jack’s ride to and from the train station becomes significantly more dangerous, as his tyres are slippery and cars often seem not to see him.

Depending on the price of CAV ride-sharing options in the future, Jack could find himself replacing his whole trip to work with a CAV ride. Even if he decides to continue catching the train, he could choose to hail a CAV to the train station when it rains, reducing his risk of getting into an accident.

Example 4

Shona lives in a large regional town in Australia. Every weekend, she drives to visit her parents in another town 350 kilometres away. On a few occasions, Shona has found herself in near misses with other road users. She’s also realised that in certain areas of her trip, she has no mobile reception, so would have difficultly contacting her family in case of an emergency.

CAV technologies have the potential to connect large regional centres through safer alternative transport methods, such as through driverless shuttle services. Even existing low-level automated technologies, such as lane-assist, are estimated to reduce the likelihood of a crash by up to 33%. Given the connectivity requirements necessary for the deployment of CAVs, Shona will also likely experience better reception throughout her trip.

What’s next?

Transport technologies like CAVs are developing rapidly, with some technologies continuing to evolve even as they become commercially available. The Australian Government recognises that investment in digital and physical infrastructure is necessary to support these technologies. We will continue to work with the community, industry, and other governments, to make sure our policies and laws keep pace with CAV technologies and the opportunities they create.