South Australia looks set to become the first state in Australia to adapt its road laws for a future with driverless cars, with the government outlining a plan on in state parliament on Tuesday to reform two pieces of key automotive legislation.
“Our Motor Vehicles Act was written when the FB model Holden was being released to the market in 1959 and our Road Traffic Act [was written] two years later,” Governor Hieu Van Le told the SA Parliament as he read the government’s legislative agenda, which included plans to make Adelaide a carbon neutral city.
“[The] Government will reform both pieces of legislation and also legislate for driverless vehicles, which will revolutionise transportation in South Australia.”
The tech-forward move coincides with the recent release of a report from technology consultants Accenture, declaring that the era of autonomous vehicles is upon us – a technical revolution in which it sees Australia playing a key role.
In an interview with RenewEconomy last week, Accenture’s head of Digital operations in Australia and New Zealand, David Maunsell, discussed the report and predicted that the arrival of autonomous vehicles on Australian public roads could happen as soon as 2018 – just three years.
“Before autonomous vehicles can be on public roads in Australia [apparently there are driverless trucks on private roads in the Pilbara right now], we need the software to be ready, the technology to be ready, and the laws changed,” Maunsell told RenewEconomy in a telephone interview.
Tuesday’s new from South Australia means at least one of these key ingredients is on track.
Elsewhere in the world, says Maunsell, things are already happening. California has passed legislation already, making it legal for AVs to drive on public roads. And Sweden has a trial underway of Volvo AVs driving on public roads.
But according to Maunsell, this disruptive technology – which many predict will make our roads much safer, while making vehicles more efficient – is about more than cars not needing drivers.
“The fully autonomous vehicle is the end point,” he told RE. “Along the way, it is about connecting cars to an intelligent network. It’s about data in and out.”
And as the Accenture report notes, he also expects AVs will bring “enormous disruption to established business models across multiple industries” – disruptions we will need to be ready for.
“The time is now to respond and position for the opportunity,” the report says.
As with electric vehicles, and distributed renewables, for the energy industry AVs mean assessing the role of cars as off-grid energy suppliers.
“A mode of transport by day, they could then offer households cheaper forms of energy when they refuel at night,” the report says.
“In the South Korean city of Gumi, authorities are testing technology that uses inductive charging for vehicles on the move. This technology may reduce demand for certain types of energy, and create new opportunities to deliver energy back into the grid, which could affect energy providers’ businesses,” it says.
“Collaboration is key,” adds Maunsell. “If we do it right, there is lots of promise for cleaner, greener and lower stress transportation.”