Current projects / Preparing for more automated road and rail vehicles (policy work complete)

Identifying regulatory or operational barriers that might impact the introduction of automated vehicles on Australia's transport networks.

Preparing for more automated road and rail vehicles (policy work complete)

  • Scoping > 
  • Analysing issues > 
  • Analysing options > 
  • Implementing


Automated vehicles offer the possibility of fundamentally changing transport and society by improving road safety, freight productivity and by reducing road congestion.

However, current regulations do not adequately support automated road vehicles. In November 2016, Australian transports ministers agreed to a phased reform program so that conditionally automated vehicles can operate safely and legally on our roads before 2020, and highly and fully automated vehicles from 2020.

To provide certainty on the use of existing technology, transport ministers reaffirmed the existing policy position that the human driver remains in full legal control of a vehicle that is partially or conditionally automated, unless or until a new position is developed and agreed. These recommendations and policy positions are set out in the NTC policy paper – Regulatory reforms for automated road vehicles.

Next steps

We are implementing a roadmap of reform to prepare Australia for automated road vehicles. To do this, the following initiatives have commenced as part of a phased approach to facilitate the testing and trialling of automated vehicles in the short term, and prepare for the safe deployment of automated vehicles on public roads in the medium to long term:


Vehicle manufacturers are progressively introducing increased levels of automated driving controls in their vehicles. Manufacturers and technology developers are seeking to understand whether these technologies comply with current laws. It has been unclear whether Australia’s current regulatory frameworks – including vehicle standards and road rules, as well as liability and insurance – can support conditional, highly and/or fully automated vehicles on public roads.

In November 2015, the Transport and Infrastructure Council therefore asked us to identify whether there are any regulatory barriers associated with the introduction of more automated road and rail vehicles in Australia.

The release of the policy paper, Regulatory reforms for automated road vehicles, concludes a one year project to research the regulatory barriers and develop recommendations to support future reform. The launch of the discussion paper, National guidelines for automated vehicle trials, signifies the start to phase one of our roadmap of reform.

The NTC project has identified that there are no regulatory barriers to automated rail (including light rail) in Australia, and the NTC work on automated vehicles will not be considering automated rail further.

For more information, see Automated vehicles in Australia.

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Project Manager James Williams
Last Updated: 11/4/2019