Australian rules for automotive safety are set to change in 2018, with the new rules heavily favouring self-driving capabilities.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program is changing the guidelines for its five-star safety rating system. Among other changes, cars will no longer be able to score a full five stars unless the vehicle in question has self-braking capabilities.
The decision from ANCAP comes as another major road safety body, the Australasian College of Road Safety, has vocally criticised the government for its lack of initiative in supporting self-driving innovations.
"Too many people see autonomous vehicles as something we'll play with in the future, but these technologies are coming into the market now," Australasian College of Road Safety president Lauchlan McIntosh said.
"We have lots of little programs happening in every state, but it should be in coordination. There was no money in the federal budget. The government has been absolutely silent."
Self-braking technology has already been shown to reduce the incidence of crashes in real-world testing by almost 40%.
Further testing is set to be streamlined as well, with promising results coming from the University of Michigan, where researchers have found a way to evaluate self-driving capabilities far faster than before. Current testing capabilities do not produce the amount of data needed to be confident in self-driving safety.
“Even the most advanced and largest-scale efforts to test automated vehicles today fall woefully short of what is needed to thoroughly test these robotic cars,” Huei Peng, director of Mcity and the Roger L. McCarthy Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan, said.
Their new accelerated evaluation process breaks down difficult real-world driving situations into components that can be tested or simulated repeatedly.
With the accelerating rollout of self-driving cars in Australia, and the rapidly increasing number of companies that are investing in the technology, it appears our regulation may finally be catching up.