Australia motoring on in driverless car revolution, global survey shows

Australia has improved its preparedness for the introduction of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) over the past year, according to a KPMG global report, scoring top marks on AV policy and regulation and connectivity infrastructure, specifically the availability of high-performance mobile internet.

Now in its third year, the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index ranks 30 countries on 28 key indicators of autonomous vehicle preparedness. Ranked 15th in the world, Australia has successfully maintained its position for the second year in a row, despite an increase in the number of participating countries, and is steadily developing a supportive environment for driverless cars.

Praveen Thakur, Partner, Transport and Infrastructure, KPMG in Australia, said: “In the last 12 to 18 months we have seen a lot more AV-related activity at the state level, particularly from the infrastructure perspective. One such example includes the Queensland Government that developed its plans for mobility as a service which consider automation as an emerging technology.”

“To be top-ranked in policy and regulation in a year where Australia has suffered from the bushfires, floods and now the COVID-19 shutdown is no mean achievement. Our states, territories and Federal governments were early in reforming laws to facilitate future use of autonomous vehicles and this work is continuing under the auspices of National Transport Commission’s Automated Vehicle Program.”

The study points out that while the global pandemic has understandably seen a pause in some AV development and investment internationally, in the long-term self-driving vehicles could have an expanded role as countries emerge from the lockdown. For example, social distancing on public transport could be facilitated by on-demand, autonomous minibuses.

Praveen Thakur said; “When we think of AVs, we naturally tend to think of private cars and taxis. However, significant investment has been made for shared, on demand, driverless minibuses. Over the last year, we have seen significant trials and regular services of driverless minibuses in Chile, Denmark, Finland and Norway, and tests of full-length autonomous buses in Singapore, Spain and the UK.”

“We in Australia also have extensive experience with autonomous buses. For example Transport for NSW has been testing autonomous buses since 2017. Similarly, RAC began offering residents of Bussleton in Western Australia the opportunity to ride in its driverless, electric Intellibus on public roads, as well as continuing an earlier trial in South Perth that started in 2016. We could use the pandemic to leapfrog the implementation of autonomous minibuses in Australian roads.”

The study ranks countries across a wide range of metrics under four headings:

  • policy and legislation
  • technology and innovation
  • infrastructure
  • consumer acceptance.

Australia’s strengths lie in its regulatory environment, its willingness to consider autonomy in infrastructure projects and policies, and the range of trials are being undertaken across the nation. But KPMG believes more could be done by companies and organisations involved in the autonomous vehicle sector to engage the public in advance of the technology being widely available.

Praveen Thakur said: “The industry tends to be passive in communicating and engaging with the community. It would be beneficial if it could take up more of a leadership role. While we are yet to see the full transformational potential of autonomous vehicles in Australia, progress has been made and it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the need for driverless cars.”

Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Ranking

1Singapore11Japan
2The Netherlands12Canada
3Norway13Taiwan
4United States14Germany
5Finland15Australia
6Sweden16Israel
7South Korea17New Zealand
8United Arab Emirates18Austria
9United Kingdom19France
10Denmark20China

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