The Federal Government has announced that it will establish a new Office of Future Transport Technologies to help prepare for the arrival of automated vehicles and other transport innovations.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the initiative was made possible through a $9.7 million investment by the Liberals and Nationals’ Government.
Mr McCormack said the new Office would enhance the Federal Government’s strategic leadership role, to coordinate more cohesively with other governments and agencies to implement future transport technologies in Australia more successfully and responsibly.
He said the development and uptake of automated vehicle technologies and associated applications would also be managed with a continued focus on improving transport and road safety outcomes.
“Automated vehicles are on the verge of becoming commercially available here and the Australian Government is taking proactive steps to manage the associated challenges and opportunities within that evolving and future transport landscape,” Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack said Australian governments and industry needed to collaborate effectively in order to develop the right policy, regulation and infrastructure, to adapt to future technology use.
“Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government and the emergence of automated vehicles represents a significant opportunity to realise safety and productivity benefits while supporting Australian industry and innovation.
“The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025.
“While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, these technologies also have great potential to reduce the $27 billion cost of road crashes in Australia each year.
“These advances can also help to reduce the significant social impacts that road deaths and injuries have on families and the wider community.”
Roads Australia, in responding to the Inquiry into the National Road Safety Strategy, described automated vehicles and other new technologies as road safety “game-changers”.
Mr McCormack also agreed with Roads Australia President David Stuart-Watt’s comment, “The more we can do to accelerate the safe introduction of technology on our roads, the more lives we can save”.
Mr McCormack said he wanted to ensure these new technologies are deployed in a manner which improves safety, productivity, accessibility and liveability for Australians in both urban and regional areas.
“The establishment of an Office of Future Transport Technologies within my Department will enable the Australian Government to work with industry and State and Territory Governments to ensure Australia is ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
“I expect the Office to collaborate across governments to ensure automated vehicles are safe, to consider future infrastructure needs, to make sure cyber security safeguards are in place, and to support Australian businesses in taking advantage of new commercial opportunities.
“This new Australian Government $9.7 million investment will ensure the regulatory settings are workable and nationally consistent, that they fit with emerging United Nations regulatory developments and are consistent with related Commonwealth policies and laws; including those relating to privacy and data use.
“While some of this work has already started, we will see the Office of Future Transport Technologies ramping up over the next few months to coordinate Australia’s responses to the challenges ahead.”
The National Transport Commission (NTC) welcomed the announcement, with the NTC’s Acting Chief Executive, Dr Geoff Allan, saying that the new Office showed the importance of emerging transport technologies, including automated vehicles, and their potential to improve safety and productivity in Australia.
“Automated vehicles are one of the biggest changes to transport since the introduction of the car,” Dr Allan said.
“The NTC looks forward to working with the Office of Future Transport Technologies as we continue to build an end-to-end regulatory system for automated vehicles in Australia.”
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Australia echoed the support.
“Australia stands to benefit from the introduction of new transport technologies in many ways,” Susan Harris, CEO of ITS Australia, said.
“The ITS industry is continually working to deliver safer transport systems, reduce congestion and increase transport options.
“By engaging with the Office for Future Transport Technologies, ITS Australia and the Australian ITS Industry can continue to shape future transport in Australia by working with the Government to identify projects and products that will improve safety, productivity, accessibility and liveability for Australians in both urban and regional areas – the very aspects the Government wishes to address.”