Automated vehicle trial guidelines

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Automated vehicles have the potential to improve road safety, productivity, mobility and environmental outcomes. To achieve these benefits, industry and governments must test automated vehicles in the real world, including how they interact with other road users and road environments.

Vehicles cannot legally operate in highly or fully automated driving mode on public roads due to existing legal barriers. Organisations who want to run automated vehicle trials require state and territory road transport agencies to provide permits or exemptions from these current rules.

Purpose of the guidelines

The guidelines have been developed by NTC and Austroads. They are intended to:

  • support nationally consistent conditions for automated vehicle trials in Australia
  • provide certainty and clarity to industry regarding expectations when trialling in Australia
  • help road transport agencies manage trials in their own state or territory as well as across state borders
  • establish minimum standards of safety
  • help assure the public that roads are being used safely
  • help raise awareness and acceptance of automated vehicles in the community.

Trialling automated vehicles in Australia

Australia is open as a test bed for automated vehicle technology. Applications can be made for:

  • trials of any type of automated vehicle technology
  • trials of any size
  • trials of a commercial or non-commercial nature
  • trials across jurisdictional borders.

The trial approval process consists of:

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Stage Responsible agency Legislation / guidance
Import approval The Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (Cth) and Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989 (Cth) (transitioning to the Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 (Cth) in 2021)
Shipping and entry
  • Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • Department of Home Affairs
  • Australian Taxation Office
e.g. Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989, Biosecurity Act 2015, Customs Tariff Act 1995, Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999
Trial approval State and territory road transport agencies
Registration (if required) State and territory road transport agencies State and territory road safety acts and motor vehicle registration acts

Organisations interested in running a trial are encouraged to contact the state or territory road transport agency for the area intended for the trial prior to making an application.

The National Transport Commission, states and territories and the Commonwealth are also developing reforms to allow the commercial deployment of automated vehicles. For more information, visit the automated vehicle program page.
 

Approvals process for an automated vehicle trial

Step 1
  • Automated vehicle(s) does not comply with all relevant Australian Design Rules
  • Trialling organisation should consult state and territory road transport agency to seek in-principle support for trial on public roads
  • Trialling organisation applies to Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications for vehicle import approval
Step 2
  • Minister (or delegate) grants vehicle import approval for automated vehicle(s) through a discretionary approval under Regulation 11 or 18 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989
  • Approval may be subject to conditions
Step 3
  • Automated vehicle(s) may be imported, subject to meeting import approval conditions, customs duties, quarantine and shipping requirements and relevant taxes
Step 4
  • Application to state or territory road transport agency to trial on roads (if exemption or permit required). State and territory requirements and NTC/Austroads trial guidelines (or Victorian guidelines) to inform application
  • State or territory road transport agency approves trial
Step 5 (if required)
  • Trialling organisation applies to state or territory road transport agency to register automated vehicle(s)
  • State or territory road transport agency grants conditional registration