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Australia: Victorian government to trial driverless vehicles on public roads

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Yesterday, the state government of Victoria, Australia announced their decision to trial self-driving vehicles on two of the state's major connecting motorways, the CityLink and Tullamarine Freeway. The trial is to use autonomous vehicles from automobile companies including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Tesla. The two-year trial is to have three phases.

A view of the Tullamarine Freeway, one of the motorways these cars will be tested on.
Image: Bidgee.

The cars are to drive alongside commuters, but in public testing a driver is always to be present, as Victorian law requires drivers always keep a hand on the steering wheel. However, in occasional closures of the Burnley Tunnel, with no other drivers to endanger, the cars are to be tested with nobody in the vehicle.

Lane assist, cruise control, and recognition of traffic signs are in the trial's first phase, expected to complete before the end of the year. This includes monitoring how the driver-less cars respond to road conditions, including lane markings and electronic speed signs.

"Victoria is at the forefront of automated vehicle technology — we're investing in this trial to explore ways that this technology can be used to reduce crashes and keep people safe on our roads", said Luke Donnellan, the Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety. He noted, "Ninety per cent of the fault of accidents is human error [...] so we know that if we can take out human error we will have less accidents".

Tim Hansen, Victoria Police's Acting Assistant Commissioner, said that police had founded a project team to investigate how self-driving vehicles would change policing on roads. "Can we intercept vehicles more safely to avoid pursuits and ramming?", he asked.

The trial is a partnership between the state government, Victoria's road management authority VicRoads, owner of the CityLink toll road Transurban, and insurance company RACV.


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