How will self-driving cars affect riders?

Riders have been invited to make submissions on road rules about the coming revolution of automated self-driving vehicles.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) is considering how Australian governments should amend driver laws to facilitate the introduction of automated vehicles.

However, their press release said they were asking road transport agencies, police, and industry to  make submissions. No mention of motorcyclists or rider representative groups.

When asked about the omission, they said all members of the public, including riders, could make submissions. You can send your submissions via email.

Vital issue of rider safety

The issue of automated vehicles is vital for riders as one female motorcyclist has already been hit by a self-driving Tesla S being tested in Norway.

The NTC has released a discussion paper Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles which seeks to clarify how current driver and driving laws apply to automated vehicles and who would be legally responsible for their operation.

The document makes no reference to riders except: “The model Australian Road Rules provide the following definition of a ‘driver’: A driver is the person who is driving a vehicle (except a motor bike, bicycle, animal or animal-drawn vehicle).”

NTC Chief Executive Paul Retter says current driving laws were developed before automated vehicles were envisaged, assuming the driver is human.

“The introduction of more automated vehicles will see elements of the driving task shift away from the human driver to the automated driving system but our laws currently don’t recognise these systems,” he says.

“We need to ensure that relevant driving laws apply to automated vehicles when the automated driving system—rather than the human driver—is operating the vehicle.”

Autonomous motorcycles

The NTC also fails to mention that motorcycles may also become self-riding vehicles.

BMW, Honda and Yamaha have already produced motorcycles that are either self-balancing or ride themselves.

“We have been tasked with identifying, and if necessary, removing, legislative impediments to automated vehicles,” Paul says.

“But we must also maintain the intent of existing laws—to ensure the safe operation of vehicles on Australian roads.

“Legislation must recognise a legal entity that can be held responsible for the automated driving system,” he says.

Submissions for this discussion paper are open until 4pm, Friday, November 24, 2017, via the NTC website.

Following consultation on this paper, the NTC will present reform options to transport ministers in May 2018.