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Clarifying control of automated vehicles

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08 June 2017

Vehicles with conditional automation, where an automated driving system drives the vehicle for a sustained period of time but the human driver is ultimately required to maintain proper control of the vehicle, are not yet ready to be approved for use on Australian roads.

The ATA has raised concerns with the ability of a human driver to safely resume control of an automated vehicle in a submission to the National Transport Commission (NTC) project on clarifying the control of automated vehicles.

Under the proposed approach an automated driving system could perform the driving task for extended periods of time, with the human driver not required to have input into the driving or monitor the external environment or operation of the automated driving system. But the human driver would still be ultimately regarded as in control of the vehicle and required to intervene and take over the driving task, if required.

Possible risks include increased driver distraction and fatigue, and unanswered questions about the ability of a driver to safely step in and resume control from an automated system, potentially with just seconds to respond before a possible crash.

Vehicles with conditional automation should not be introduced until driving skills issues are addressed, it is demonstrated that a human driver can safely resume control, and the automated driving system is recognised in legislation and a safety assurance system in implemented.

There is presently no known plans for the development or commercialisation of vehicles with these advanced conditional automation driving systems, level 3 automation on the SAE international standards.

A safety assurance system and legislative recognition is also critical before vehicles with higher levels of automation are introduced, and it must be demonstrated that they can safely operate on Australian roads.

Rules on the control of vehicles need to be focused on achieving a safer road system and not on the introduction of a particular form of technology. 

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