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In driver’s seat for the future

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In driver’s seat for the future

Greg Spinda emphasises the need for Australian laws to be in step with the rise of electric vehicles and automated driving systems.

Our safety matters, and as with any new technology over the years, electric vehicles (EV) and automated vehicles appear regularly in the news. With five levels of automation, Tesla suggests current automation technologies are at Level 2, which is basic driver assistance.

In the US, a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration linked 17 road deaths specifically to Tesla’s Autopilot since May 2022. They have collected data since 2021 and identified Tesla was involved in 736 of the 807 automation-related car accidents. The next closest was Subaru’s automated driving system, linked with 23 car accidents.

In Australia, the National Transport Commission papers have identified 700 barriers to the deployment of automated vehicles in Australian laws. There are many complex gaps still to be navigated. These include:

  1. Personal injury insurance
  2. Property damage
  3. Data access
  4. Road safety enforcement – policing
  5. Vehicle repairs and consumer guarantees
  6. Importation regulation
  7. End-of-life disposals.

There have also been emerging issues for EV owners living in apartments or under body corporate-managed arrangements, in relation to their ability to charge their vehicles on common property. The ACT and NSW have already progressed with legislation and guidelines to assist owners and body corporate managers in retro-fitting existing buildings with appropriate and safe EV charging stations. The National Construction Code was amended so that from October last year, all new apartment buildings must be designed and built to be EV charging station ready.

Are we legally ready for the progress on our doorstep? Not yet. There is still much to be addressed to ensure the future of EVs, and that automated driving is safe and economical. Progress, though, should not be hindered because of poor, slow or inefficient planning and laws, because EVs and automation will charge ahead regardless. Ultimately, we are talking real lives and property at risk if laws do not progress in tune with EVs and automation.

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