This article originally appeared at Anti-Media.
Australia — As Anti-Media reported in September, governments around the world are beginning to take measures to accommodate for the rise of electric vehicles. Britain, France, India, and Norway have all set deadlines for when to have zero gas-powered cars on their roads, and China is looking into setting one of its own.
Similarly, governments will be forced to craft rules applying to self-driving vehicles once they start becoming standard modes of transportation. It seems Australia recognizes this, as the government has instructed its National Transport Commission (NTC) to look into the matter.
A report from the NTC, released this week, starts from the conclusion that eventually, vehicles controlled by an automated driving system (ADS) will make roads safer because they take human error out of the equation. The NTC writes that Australia’s government would do well to get ahead of the curve:
“The Australian community cannot gain the benefits of automated vehicles, including safety, productivity, environmental, and mobility benefits, unless legislative barriers in transport legislation to the operation of automated vehicles are removed.”
The report has a “problems” section that highlights the difficulties in adapting deeply-rooted legal systems to accommodate emerging technologies — in this case, self-driving cars. The first problem listed by the NTC is most blaringly obvious one:
“Current driving laws and offences assume a human driver.”
And if a human isn’t controlling the vehicle, the NTC asks the Australian government to consider, then how responsible should that human be for what happens while the vehicle is on the road? Not very, the NTC concludes, and this goes for the area of driving under the influence, as well:
“One potential barrier to receiving the full benefits of automated vehicles would be to require occupants of automated vehicles, who are not driving, to comply with drink-driving laws. This would create a barrier to using a vehicle to safely drive home after drinking. Enabling people to use an automated vehicle to drive them home despite having consumed alcohol has the potential to improve road safety outcomes by reducing the incidence of drink-driving.”
The NTC compares the situation to “a person instructing a taxi driver where to go” and concludes that there is “no possibility that a human could drive a dedicated automated vehicle so there is no safety risk associated with drink driving.”
However, the NTC says penalties should be in place for human beings who assume control of self-driving vehicles while intoxicated.