How close is Australia to a driverless future?

The Victorian State Government is the latest state to trial driverless vehicles.

The Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic) allows for permits to be granted to individuals or organisations who wish to participate in the trial of automated vehicles. The permits will be available based upon performance and proof of necessary insurance policies and safety management.

The Victorian government has also announced a $9 million dollar grant program to allow for researchers and the industry to assist to develop vehicles with connected and automated technology. This is part of the state’s Toward Zero Road Strategy and Action Plan.

Initial trials will involve a human supervisor that will monitor the automated vehicle and fully automatous driving will be allowed once VicRoads is confident that the driverless vehicle can operate safety, however, this is within limited circumstances.

The Victorian laws follow the roll out of similar legislation in NSW, as we discussed in our recent article.  The state of driverless vehicles in Australia is detailed in the table below:

Jurisdiction How far along the road are they?
South Australia In June 2016, South Australia was the first state to pass laws enabling driverless vehicle tests through its Motor Vehicle (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Bill 2016 that is based on exemptions within the current Motor Vehicles Act 1959.
New South Wales On 10 August 2017, the NSW government passed the Transport Legislation Amendment (Automated Vehicle Trials and Innovation) Bill 2017 to allow for highly or fully automated vehicles to commence with the approval by the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, the Maritime Service or Transport for NSW.
Queensland September 2017 – Transport and Main Roads is in the planning stages of preparing for on-road testing trial in Australia with cooperative intelligent transport systems technologies.
North Territory A driverless Bus Trial has been concluded at Darwin Waterfront from 5th-29th September 2017.

It is currently in its second phrase that travels within a pedestrian environment around the Darwin Waterfront precinct. It will be to explore the capability of operating within a dedicated pedestrian environment

Western Australia Trial to commence in April 2018 that will be supported by the WA government to allow NAVYA, a French company to test its driverless cars, named Autonoms.

It hopes to operate an Uber-style driverless car smart-phone application, it hopes to have the service potentially operating by 2021

Tasmania Members of Parliament in Tasmania have recommended driverless car trials in Tasmania.
ACT The ACT Government is partnering with Seeing Machines, the University of Canberra and Australian National University to run a trials on individuals driving automated cars, however, legally the driver is still in control. It seeks to look at how quickly a driver can assume control of a car when required.

The software will monitor the driver’s facial movement and expression to determine whether they are paying sufficient attention and sound an alert if they need to look at the road and put their hands back on the wheel. The trial will take place over 2 years and is currently in the planning stages.


If you have any questions around automated vehicles and their legal implications, contact Michael Morrissey or Hamish Geddes.

(This article was prepared by Michael Morrissey and Mary Ann Wen.)

Disclaimer: This publication by Morrissey Law & Advisory is for general information and commentary only and should not be considered or relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in relation to any matters or transactions that may arise in relation with communication.

2019-07-02T11:36:11+10:00June 12th, 2018|The Future|