Autonomous driving: Office for Future Transport Tech announced by Australian government

A new future-focused office within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development aims to coordinate progress on the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack today announced the establishment of a new Office for Future Transport Technologies, launched through a  $9.7 million investment.

The news marks the most overt step yet by the Federal Government to take a leading role in the emerging field, working with key organisations and state governments – some already well advanced in research and pilot programs – to coordinate the introduction of autonomous vehicles in Australia.

“I expect the Office to collaborate across governments to ensure automated vehicles are safe, to consider future infrastructure needs, to make sure cyber security safeguards are in place, and to support Australian businesses in taking advantage of new commercial opportunities,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.

Speaking at a Roads Australia event today, Mr McCormack said the advent of automated driving will bring both a significant boost to the economy, while also reducing the road toll.

“Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government and the emergence of automated vehicles represents a significant opportunity to realise safety and productivity benefits while supporting Australian industry and innovation,” he said.

“The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025.

“While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, these technologies also have great potential to reduce the $27 billion cost of road crashes in Australia each year,” he added.

The announcement has been well received by transport and safety organisations.

ANCAP CEO, James Goodwin, described the establishment of the new office as a mark of national leadership.

“A dedicated office should concentrate on the regulatory and legal framework but also prioritise Australian testing and research capabilities,” he said.

“ANCAP is ready to assist the new office as the voice of the consumer, and continue to work closely with the Government to progress the work needed to prepare for autonomous transport systems.”

The Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) said, in a statement today, that a coordinated effort would be crucial in bringing Australia up to speed in the move towards automated driving.

“The size of the prize is significant – and with every state and territory in Australia has had, or currently running, an automated vehicle trial it is imperative that all levels of government work together ensuring a consistent, sustained and a well-planned introduction of these technologies across our road and public transport networks,” ADVI said.

“A great deal remains to be done across aspects of insurance, liability, infrastructure readiness, import approvals, and community acceptance – and ADVI looks forward to working collaboratively with the new Office to address these gaps.”

To date, the biggest move at a federal level towards planning for autonomous vehicles has been the November 2016 launch of a ‘roadmap of reform’ project by the National Transport Commission – an independent advisory body funded by Commonwealth and statement governments – that will determine which laws will need to be changed or created to accommodate autonomous driving.

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