Building consumer, industry and regulatory confidence in autonomous-vehicle technologies is the key to their successful introduction, the Australasian New Car Assessment Program says.
ANCAP CEO James Goodwin tells the Australian federal parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources that while his agency’s primary focus has been on testing the physical crashworthiness of vehicles, independent evaluation of autonomous crash-avoidance technologies’ effectiveness now is equally as important.
The committee is holding hearings into the social impacts of driverless vehicles.
“The reality of driverless cars on our roads is some way off, but autonomous technology is here and its increased rollout will have a major impact in improving road safety,” Goodwin tells the committee.
ANCAP led the drive to equip vehicles with electronic stability control by introducing it as a mandatory requirement for five stars. This now extends to functions such as active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist.
“These level 1 automated technologies are already in the marketplace, and ANCAP is assessing and rating vehicles with these features which will form the building blocks for highly autonomous or potentially driverless vehicles in the future,” Goodwin says.
“ANCAP’s role is to build consumer, industry and regulator confidence in these technologies so we have a safer community – and we all have a role to play. We would urge consumers to demand autonomous technology; manufacturers to offer it; and regulators to support it.”
Goodwin says with more than 90% of crashes involving human error, automation is a key element in reducing road trauma, and the future of vehicle safety lies with active and autonomous features.
In its written report to the committee, ANCAP says it supports and will actively encourage the introduction of autonomous vehicle technology to assist the driver and improve road safety.
“In less than one year’s time, ANCAP will update its rating program and begin local testing and assessments of autonomous technologies,” the report says.
The technologies being tested include autonomous emergency braking in various scenarios, including vulnerable road users; speed-assist systems, including traffic-sign recognition and digital map data management; and lane-support systems.
“With the Australian vehicle fleet having an average age of 10.1 years, vehicles featuring levels of autonomous technology will continue to mix with older vehicles for many years to come, and high levels of occupant protection must continue to be required for new vehicles,” it says.
Toyota Australia’s submission to the committee says it fully recognizes and is optimistic about the associated societal benefits of driverless technology, including improved road safety, increased productivity and better environmental outcomes.
The Japanese automaker believes that in considering the conditions to include in the national guidelines, it is imperative to use the best results from the trials undertaken around the globe.
“The main conditions to be addressed include the infrastructure and road-network efficiency to support the operation of autonomous vehicles, as well as the driver skill requirement while performing on-road trials,” the Toyota submission says.
“Traffic signals and line markings also need to be consistent, as well as the frequency and bandwidth for operational requirements.”