The public road transport system is characterised by four key elements that work together as our land transport system: (i) vehicles, (ii) infrastructure, (iii) humans and (iv) the regulatory and operational frameworks.
Our current system is prescriptive, on a state by state basis comprising of road rules, vehicle registration and driver licensing. Current automated vehicle operations are allowed on a case by case basis under trialling legislation or by exemptions, much like exemptions for access by restricted access vehicles (e.g, dangerous goods, oversized overmass, agriculture, livestock, etc).
The likely future land transport and mobility environment will be an ecosystem of operations under the current prescriptive regulatory and operational requirements together with a variety of automated and autonomous operations in private, public and commercial transport permissioned under a safety assurance system that is currently under consideration.
In 2015 ARRB organised the first autonomous vehicle demonstration on a public road in Australia, with a Volvo XC90 on the Southern Expressway and since that time has been involved in various deployments from low speed shuttles (eg La Trobe Autonobus), light vehicles (East Link trial), and development of heavy vehicle automation and platooning projects. ARRB has also been involved in automation with the Australian Army, agriculture and road construction domains.
Through our research and development activities, ARRB has undertaken numerous studies related to road operations for automated vehicles, infrastructure readiness, driver safety and registration, licensing and compulsory third party insurance impacts with automated vehicles. While ARRB undertakes the technical development work leading to operational deployment, the National Transport Commission (www.ntc.gov.au) undertakes the regulatory development for the National and State Transport Agencies. A range of studies, proposals and associated projects and reports have been produced
In 2016, ARRB established the Australian New Zealand Driverless Vehicles Initiative (ADVI) which has over 180 members from industry, governments, academia and international organisations. ARRB’s experts also represent Australia at the International Standards Organisation, ISO TC204 which is the peak global standards development organisation. In several working groups (WG 1,7,14 and 19), ARRB’s experts work on new standards related to communications, test methods and procedures, operational concepts, security, and protocols related not only to automation but also towards an integrated mobility future.
Readiness for uptake of automated and autonomous Australia depends not on autonomous technology alone as presented in the vehicle but also attention to infrastructure (signals, signs and lines, pavements, lighting, connectivity, data security etc), to drivers and other road users (education, licensing, including the autonomous driving ‘entity’) and regulation and operational frameworks (driver’s licence for the autonomous car?, parking policy, overtaking, gap setting and traffic movement protocols, accident investigation, national traffic information dataset, data custodians, etc).
While it can be argued that over 80% of the knowledge and expertise in operating as a system with other road users can be of a general nature, the world over, the remaining 20% required for safe localisation and interoperation into Australia’s urban, regional and remote road networks is the effort that ARRB focuses upon on behalf of its members. We have taken this knowledge over the last five years into the Defence, Agriculture and Road Construction domains, all of which face similar challenges as they operate land vehicles in areas where humans and other vehicles also operate in.
For more information on Austrack testing, please contact Dr Charles Karl and Tia Gaffney.