Preparedness for the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in Australia has improved over the last year, but more can be done to engage the public about the advantages of the technology according to a new report.
KPMG's report, the 'Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index', ranks 30 countries on 28 key indicators of AV preparedness. For the second year in a row Australia is ranked 15th in the world, despite an increase in the number of participating countries involved in the index.
Australia received top marks for AV policy, regulation and connectivity infrastructure like the availability of high-performance mobile internet.
"In the last 12 to 18 months we have seen a lot more AV-related activity at the state level, particularly from the infrastructure perspective," says KPMG Australia partner Praveen Thakur.
"One such example includes the Queensland Government that developed its plans for mobility as a service which consider automation as an emerging technology.
"To be top-ranked in policy and regulation in a year where Australia has suffered from the bushfires, floods and now the COVID-19 shutdown is no mean achievement. 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."
The report details how while the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress and investment into the AV sector the technology could be used by countries as they emerge from lockdowns.
For example, the report points out how AVs could be useful in terms of encouraging social distancing as public transport could be facilitated by on-demand, autonomous minibuses.
"When we think of AVs, we naturally tend to think of private cars and taxis. However, significant investment has been made for shared, on demand, driverless minibuses," says Thakur.
"We in Australia also 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 in 2016.
"We could use the pandemic to leapfrog the implementation of autonomous minibuses in Australian roads."
According to the KPMG report Australia's AV strengths lie in its regulatory environment, its willingness to consider autonomy in infrastructure projects and policies, and the range of trials being conducted across the country.
However, Thakur says more could be done by companies and organisations involved in the AV sector to engage the public in advance of the technology being widely deployed.
"The industry tends to be passive in communicating and engaging with the community," says Thakur.
"It would be beneficial if it could take up more of a leadership role. While we are yet to see the full transformational potential of autonomous vehicles in Australia, progress has been made and it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the need for driverless cars."
KPMG's AV Readiness Ranking:
- The Netherlands
- United States
- South Korea
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
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