New Australian regulations to support driverless vehicles

Introduced by ACMA, the new regulations will enable the roll out of intelligent transport systems by Australian road traffic authorities.

Australian road traffic authorities can begin the roll out of intelligent transport systems (ITS) that enable vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-person, or vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, thanks to new regulations introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on Thursday.

The Radiocommunications (Intelligent Transport Systems) Class Licence 2017 regulations allow the 5.9 GHz band to be used for ITS in Australia, and will support the use of complying wireless technologies and devices.

The new regulations also make the local guidelines consistent with the ITS arrangements in major vehicle markets such as the United States and European Union, ACMA explained.

"ITS are expected to make roads smarter, safer, and cleaner through the use of communications technologies," ACMA acting chair James Cameron said. "The new Class Licence will facilitate the rollout of the latest transportation communications technology, putting Australia on par with other nations adopting ITS."

The new Class Licence authorises a person to operate an ITS station subject to the condition that it must be operated on a frequency, or within a range of frequencies, greater than 5855 MHz and not greater than 5925 MHz; and at radiated power that does not exceed a maximum EIRP of 23 dBm/MHz.

The ITS station must also not be operated within 70kms of the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory, and it must comply with ETSI Standard EN 302 571.

Additional conditions of the Class Licence also dictate a transmitter, or a group of transmitters, must not be operated in a place accessible by the public if the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the transmitter or group of transmitters exceeds the general public exposure limits specified in the ARPANSA Standard, which is published by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

"Harmonising Australia's ITS arrangements with wider global developments means Australian motorists are more likely to enjoy the benefits of connected vehicles as they become available," ACMA said in a statement.

The NSW Department of Transport has been undertaking a connected vehicles trial for a number of years, connecting 60 trucks and 11 buses with road infrastructure such as traffic signals and hazard alerts.

Calling connected and autonomous vehicles "game-changing technology", the department said last year it was speaking with universities and other partners to analyse the collected data in order to predict and deploy safety, environmental, and traffic efficiency improvements, as well as moving to expand the trial to more areas and to 55 cars in an eventual goal of implementing on-demand public transport.

The Royal Automobile Club (RAC) of Western Australia and the Western Australian government will soon be trialling Navya's "Autonom" electric-powered autonomous vehicles in "a closed and controlled environment".

Perth is one of three cities picked for trials of the new type of electric vehicle and once the vehicles are rolled out, they will be bookable through a smartphone app, similar to ride-sharing services such as Uber.

RAC began trialling its driverless electric shuttle bus in August 2016. The RAC Intellibus, which carried more than 2,000 passengers along the South Perth Esplanade for a distance of about 3km, uses light detection and ranging, stereo cameras, GPS, odometry, and autonomous emergency braking to detect and avoid obstacles.

In Victoria, the Autonobus is driving students around La Trobe University campus as part of a trial until July this year. It uses 360-degree cameras and sensor systems to detect objects and runs a set route based on map coordinates.

Also in Victoria, Transurban is currently conducting a driverless vehicle trial in Melbourne over the course of 18 months; while in NSW, the state government is undergoing a two-year trial of a driverless shuttle bus at Sydney Olympic Park

The South Australian government also launched a AU$2.8 million trial of driverless shuttle buses in March, similar to the RAC Intellibus. Darwin, meanwhile, has entered its second phase of a driverless bus trial, although with a driver still on board for safety.

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