Australia lags behind in autonomous driving preparedness

18 August 2020 3 min. read
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Australia is improving its ecosystem for autonomous vehicles, according to a KPMG report, but the country still lags the globe’s frontrunners by a worrying margin.

In its annual ‘Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index’, automotive and mobility experts from KPMG rank 30 countries on a range of indicators for autonomous vehicle preparedness, including the regulatory environment, the willingness of consumers to embrace self-driving cars, government support and subsidies, and the quality of technology and infrastructure.

According to the benchmark, Singapore is the globe's top country for autonomous driving, followed by the Netherlands, which held pole position the two years previous. Both countries are runaway leaders when it comes to supportive policy and legislation, and the eagerness with which governments and private sector organisations are piloting and developing autonomous vehicle solutions.

Sitting in between Germany and Israel, Australia ranks fifteenth, maintaining its mid-table position in KPMG’s list. According to Praveen Thakur, a partner in KPMG’s Transport and Infrastructure practice, Australia’s strengths lie in its regulatory environment, its willingness to consider autonomy in infrastructure projects and policies, and the range of trials are being undertaken across the nation.

Australia lags behind in autonomous driving preparedness

“In the last 12 to 18 months we have seen a lot more autonomous vehicles related activity at the state level, particularly from the infrastructure perspective. One such example includes the Queensland Government that developed its plans for mobility as a service which consider automation as an emerging technology.” 

“Our states, territories and Federal governments were early in reforming laws to facilitate future use of autonomous vehicles and this work is continuing under the auspices of National Transport Commission’s Automated Vehicle Program.” 

Meanwhile, investments in the country are becoming more inclusive of other (often overlooked) self-driving segments. “When we think of autonomous vehicles, we naturally tend to think of private cars and taxis. However, the sector also includes shared, on demand, driverless minibuses.”

“We in Australia have extensive experience with autonomous buses. For example Transport for NSW has been testing autonomous buses since 2017. Similarly, RAC began offering residents of Bussleton in Western Australia the opportunity to ride in its driverless, electric Intellibus on public roads, as well as continuing an earlier trial in South Perth that started five years ago.”

Despite the progress being made, more could and should be done if Australia wants to position itself as a leader in one of the fastest growing segments in the global automotive industry. According to a 2019 study by Kearney, autonomous driving has the potential of generating trillions in economic benefits to society and economy.

Thakur calls on the government to give autonomous vehicles more focus in its transport and mobility planning cycle, and the industry itself for taking more of a leadership role in the transition.

From a consumer’s viewpoint, being able to sleep and relax in the car while driving are the two prime drivers for autonomous driving. However, there are understandable concerns worldwide about the safety of self-driving cars, in particular related to cyber attacks that can temper with the intelligent systems enabling autonomous driving.