Small automated vehicles
Small automated vehicles, often called ‘delivery robots’, are small vehicles which are used mainly to make deliveries on footpaths and other road-related areas. These vehicles are already being developed, trialed and deployed commercially in a number of countries overseas. In Australia, trials of small automated vehicles are underway.
The Australian Design Rules are not relevant to small automated vehicles and there are no international vehicle standards that currently apply. The NTC is aware that current and potential future trialling organisations would welcome a consistent national regulatory approach to manage the operation of these vehicles.
In 2017 we consulted with state and territory road transport agencies and have now gained agreement to:
- a national approach for allowing trials of small automated vehicles, and
- an approach to establish how to manage commercial deployment of small automated vehicles.
Trials of small automated vehicles
Road transport agencies already use the NTC’s Guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in Australiato assess applications for automated vehicle trials on roads. We have confirmed that these guidelines should also be used to assess applications for automated vehicle trials on footpaths or other road-related vehicles. This includes applications to trial small automated vehicles.
If approached to approve a trial, the state or territory road transport agency should ensure the trialling organisation has consulted with relevant local councils and, if necessary, has obtained any required approvals under local government laws.
The Guidelines for trials of automated vehicles in Australia will be reviewed in 2018-19. This will include consideration of how the guidelines have worked for trialling organisations and state and territory road transport agencies for trials of automated vehicles on road-related areas.
State and territory road transport agencies are reviewing their exemption powers to ensure they have sufficient powers to undertake and manage trials of automated vehicles on roads. States and territories have agreed to extend the scope of these reviews to include the management of automated vehicle trials on road-related areas. These reviews are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
Commercial deployment of small automated vehicles
Small automated vehicles are only one example of a growing number of non-registerable small vehicles and motorised mobility devices emerging in the market. Our current vehicle classification system and rules to manage safety, access and operation of these innovative vehicles requires further attention.
The NTC is due to start a project on barriers to the use of more innovative vehicles in 2018-19. This project will review the current vehicles classifications framework to identify any regulatory barriers to the use of new and innovative vehicles and mobility devices, including small automated vehicles. If a need to address any regulatory barriers is found, we will develop options for a consistent and efficient national framework that allows safe innovative vehicles and mobility devices to be used on roads and road-related areas in Australia.
Last Updated: 16/5/2018