Here's a report that claims automated cars will outnumber cars with drivers in Australia within seven years

Australia, your opportunity awaits. Picture: Getty Images

A report claims Australia is lagging behind most developed economies in its preparation for driverless cars, but could still see autonomous vehicles outnumber those driven by humans within seven years.

Global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills released the report “Preparing Australia: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles”, focusing on the opportunities and challenges facing Australia in three key areas: government, smart cities, and balancing risk and opportunity.

It calls on Australia’s eastern seaboard states to “join forces” to ensure the country is prepared for the coming rise of Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).

“We’re certainly not at the forefront of CAV development globally,” Herbert Smith Freehills’ Partner and CAV topic lead Nicholas Carney said.

“But it doesn’t need to be that way. If the eastern seaboard states came together to run a major trial, that could be a game-changer for Australia.”

Here are the key findings in the report:

Government

Road and safety legislation, attracting innovators and encouraging trials, future revenue sources

  • There are 716 legislative barriers to the adoption of automated vehicles
  • 95% of car accidents are caused by human error. HSF believes that with the opportunity to remove human error from the equation, significant consideration should be given to the safety benefits of driverless cars
  • Australia is an attractive market to run trials given long distances between cities, and low population density in rural areas
  • The data collected from such trials will enable government to legislate effectively
  • For government revenue, there will be a drop in various car-related taxes, but benefits in fewer fatalities – Government must also rethink how they tax

Smart Cities

Digital infrastructure, physical infrastructure, the electric grid

The new Duck’s Guts. Picture: Getty Images
  • Before the rise of driverless cars, must first deal with the rise of electric vehicles
  • With congestion costing Sydney $2bn per year, an intelligent transport system could offer huge savings
  • Data flowing from driverless cars will be enormous – humans consume on average 650MB of data per day – driverless cars will produce 715MB per second. How we harness that data will be critical
  • Our spaces are already being designed with driverless cars future in mind – as the need for cap parks diminishes, former car parking spaces will open up for other use

Balancing Risk with Opportunity

Data, cybersecurity, protecting intellectual property, insurance, product liability

  • There are substantial data ownership and privacy risks associated with driverless cars, and no international approach to how these risks are managed
  • One critical issue is what form of consent the owner of user of the driverless car needs to give to allow their data to be used by the manufacturer
  • There is a huge opportunity for companies to commercialise the data produced by driverless cars
  • There will be hundreds of different rights owners contributing IP to different aspects of one single driverless car
  • Research shows that software required to operate CAVs could be 20 to 25 times more complex than what is seen in a Boeing Dreamliner
  • We envisage a future where vehicles will be self-reporting incidents

It’s a lot to take in, and Herbert Smith Freehills says action must be taken immediately. Within seven years, it thinks “the number of automated vehicles will outweigh manually operated vehicles in Australia”.

“And while Australian Transport Ministers have committed to ensuring Australia is ready for driverless cars by 2020, we don’t see that as a possibility given current progress.”

But if Australia’s eastern states can harmonise laws and join forces to allow for interstate driverless car trials, there’s a chance the country won’t miss out on “a game-changer”.

“Given the major technology companies and auto-manufacturers are not headquartered in Australia, we need to make it worth their while to conduct trials and develop their technology here,” Carney says.

“We need the right incentives.”

You can access the full report here.

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