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Australia - Changes to traffic laws and insurance needed for self-driving vehicles

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Feb 2018

Australia Motor Regulation Risk Management

Legislative action and changes to motor insurance are needed in order to accommodate a “high level” of automation on Australian roads in the next five years, according to a report “Transforming Mobility”, a joint initiative from NRMA, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and transport company Keolis Downer. 
   The report cites the need for over 50 Federal and state laws, including traffic fines and compulsory third party (CTP) liability insurance to be updated before widespread automation is rolled out. 
   Mr Tim Trumper, NRMA Chairman-Elect, said: “We know that autonomous and electric vehicles are coming to Australia soon and that the benefits to society are extensive, however, as outlined in ‘Transforming Mobility’. We have a way to go to position Australia’s laws to be ready for this significant transformation.”
   According to the report, under current Federal and state legislation there are no provisions for non-human drivers – a fundamental fact that will need to be addressed in order for computer-piloted cars to hit the road en mass. The introduction of self-driving cars could shift the responsibility of traffic violations to the registered operator of an autonomous vehicle.
Serious changes to CTP insurance system needed
While the report stressed the likelihood of a ‘significant reduction’ to comprehensive insurance premiums, it also warns that serious changes to the current CTP insurance system would be needed in order to ensure that drivers, passengers and pedestrians would be adequately protected in the event of an accident caused by an autonomous vehicle.
   Lead transport law partner at PwC Australia, Mr Owen Hayford, said: “The changes that need to be made to our road rules and other traffic laws to allow an autonomous driving system to do the driving are straightforward and could be enacted next year.
   “However, changes to CTP insurance regimes to ensure that victims of accidents caused by driverless vehicles have equivalent access to timely compensation, and mechanisms to ensure that premiums for product liability cover are not paid for by vehicle owners, will require more thought.” A 
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