The NSW government has unveiled $10 million funding in the 2018-19 State Budget for autonomous vehicle trials.
Driverless technology tests are not new to the state; Transport for NSW’s Smart Innovation Centre has trialled automated passenger shuttles at Sydney Olympic Park since last year. But the additional funding will provide $2.5 million annually across a four-year period to allow government bodies, the private sector, start-ups and universities to collaborate on new projects.
“The future belongs to those who hear it coming, and this investment looks to harness the power of technology to improve lives across the state,” said NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
“Driverless vehicles are going to change the playing field and open up so many new opportunities to provide personalised transport services.”
Not everyone is embracing autonomous cars, however, and the vehicles have been involved in serious road traffic accidents. So who is responsible for a crash when cars are driverless?
In NSW, the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 provides the statutory processes for awarding damages to people who are injured in vehicular crashes due to someone else’s negligence.
The state also adopted the Transport Legislation Amendment (Automated Vehicle Trials and Innovation) Act last year, which outlined various rules to govern driverless car trials.
For liability purposes, the most important part of the legislation is that a ‘vehicle supervisor’ must be in a driverless car at all times, so they can take control of the wheel in an emergency.
The Act confirms that unless the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight specifically interjects, the vehicle supervisor is considered the driver of an autonomous car. This suggests the supervisor would be liable for any accidents that occur when driverless technology was at fault.
The current legislation is tailored towards autonomous vehicle testing, so it isn’t designed to delve deep into the liability issues that could arise when the technology is widely available to consumers.
Legislators will likely keep an eye on driverless trials to assess when and how to amend existing laws to cope with fleets of autonomous vehicles on NSW roads.
The state is yet to see any serious injuries or deaths associated with autonomous vehicle accidents, but recent fatalities in the US mean the technology is under the spotlight like never before.
Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers is a firm that excels in personal injury claims, so please contact us today if you think you are entitled to car accident damages in NSW.