06th October 2017

Report Proposes Drink-Drive Rules Need Updating For Autonomous Car Era

An Australian report has suggested that drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol should be exempt from drink- drive laws if they are using autonomous cars.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has equated the use of an autonomous car to that of someone using a taxi, stating that current laws could act as a barrier to the adoption of such vehicles.

Many other countries are also considering whether updates should be made to motoring laws to accommodate autonomous vehicles on the roads.

The NTC has been looking at the legislative changes necessary to accommodate self-drive vehicles as they become more common on Australian roads. It is thought that commercial role outs of autonomous cars will begin in 2020 as the cars have already been trialled successfully in the country.

The published report considers the necessity to change laws to accommodate the new kind of vehicle and identifies a key issue of deciding who would be responsible on the road- the person in the self-drive vehicle or the autonomous driving system (ADS) that is operating it.

The NTC believe that overall, there will be safety benefits to using self-drive vehicles as this will reduce the risk of human error. The ADS will allow for people to be driven home despite consuming alcohol which shows the potential for automated vehicles to improve road safety outcomes and reduce incidents of drink-driving.

The report does not recommend the same consideration be made for persons under the influence of drink or drugs in semi-autonomous vehicles or cars that can be switched to manual driving.

Andy Cash, Head of Motoring Law at Cartwright King comments:

“We are witnessing an ever faster move towards autonomous personal and commercial vehicles. When they are readily available there will be a very clear argument for changes in the law. The extent of any change must depend on the ability of a “passenger” to override automatic functions. With technological advances happening everyday it would be very difficult to draft legal changes now, but the situation will need to be constantly reviewed.”

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