Road Safety Amendment (Automated Vehicles) Bill 2017
I take great pleasure in joining the debate on this driverless car bill. I always enjoy talking on transport bills. As someone has written recently, I think it was in the Age, the Minister for Public Transport is in danger of turning into a transport nerd. Well, I think that happened to me a very long time ago when I worked in the then small ministry of transport in the 1980s. I was sucked in as a transport nerd, and that is just how it is.
The next stage for we transport nerds is to embrace the driverless car, and I know from media reports that in Melbourne’s north there is actually a trial at La Trobe University for a driverless bus at the moment. That is occurring, so I think that will be a really good opportunity to see how this technology can possibly work. I think one of the questions that we have had in the Australian environment is how driverless vehicles can be adapted to deal with our Australian emblem, the kangaroo. Given that there are quite a few around the La Trobe University precinct — as a former student, I know that — these vehicles travelling at low speeds will be able to assist in the body of knowledge that can ensure that this technology can be applied and used across Victoria and across Australia.
Trials have already begun on specific roads — on freeways on the Transurban network and on EastLink — prior to this bill, but the difference is that they actually have to have a human involved and a hand on the steering wheel. So to actually go to the next evolution there needs to be a legal framework to ensure that these vehicles can be tested without a driver and with use of the technology.
When I look at how long I have been driving a vehicle — and I am not going to exactly say, but if someone wants to look at the parliamentary handbook, they will see how old I am — I got my licence when I was 18 years old, so —
Ms Thomas — I know.
Ms Green— Yes, the member for Macedon knows. She has been driving for about as long as I have, I think. My first car was a Datsun 180B. My surfing chick friends who I grew up with in Warrnambool thought I had sold out and become a petrol head because the Datsun 180B had been a rally car; it had been in the Repco Reliability Trial. It had a full racing harness, it had a rollover cage and, much to my father’s disgust, it had a tachometer and Saas steering wheel.
When I look at the vehicle that I drive now, a Subaru XV, it really is chalk and cheese. The Datsun 180B certainly went like the clappers, but there was a lot of engine noise, no cruise control, no power steering and no airbags on the sides or anywhere else. This model was before the era of retractable seatbelts, although it did have the lap sash racing seatbelts. It was a 1973 model, so I think it would have been produced virtually at the time the first cars that had seatbelts in them were released. It was quite the second-hand car when I got it, and it still had a speedometer that was in miles not kilometres, having been built the year before the metric system was adopted in Australia for that purpose.
I love driving my Subaru XV now. It is simply the best vehicle I have ever owned and extremely safe with the number of airbags that it has. It adjusts for the speed of other vehicles so you do not get too close to the vehicle in front. It is three years old now, and my uncle and aunt have bought the current model. They say that their model even shifts the car back into the lane if they stray out of it.
To get my licence I had to learn how to parallel park. I have a friend who is my age who cannot parallel park to this day. I simply do not know how she got her drivers licence but somehow she managed to. I was always taught to use the shop windows, particularly when I am parking in a shopping strip, and that has pretty much kept me from having bumper-to-bumper problems during parallel parking. It is quite amazing now that many vehicles can park themselves, and tones, bells and whistles let you know you are getting too close to the vehicle in front or at the rear. The reversing cameras are fantastic. I even towed the A’van with the Subaru XV. Even though the A’van is 20 years old, it does have its own braking system, and that is an enormous improvement.
In representing a rapidly growing electorate, which neighbours yours, Acting Speaker Spence — we are sort of having a competition as to how many people can move into our electorates — we both know that there is not enough road surface for a lot of the vehicles that are in our communities. Cabcharge and other companies in the transport industry anticipate that there will be driverless vehicles, particularly taxis, by 2025 to 2026. Many people who are in this chamber will be in the chamber at that time. The young people who are moving into our electorates will particularly benefit from the new, growing suburbs where there are driverless cars.
With mortgage stress — Mernda is one of the top five mortgage stress postcodes — and with the Mernda rail project, the improvements in the Plenty Valley bus network and the cycling and walking paths that come with the Mernda rail project, I have a very real aspiration that many households will be able to choose to reduce from two and three cars down to one car. The impact of driverless technology could be that almost no-one will have to go to the expense of having to purchase their own vehicle in the future. In terms of land use planning for our growing cities, it could mean the end of the double and triple garage — there may be no garage at all, or just a small one for bicycles. Perhaps the children’s pram, some toys and some tools to do some things in the garden might be the only things that a garage might be required for in future.
We are seeing with multi-unit and apartment developments now that a lot of them are including share cars as part of the body corporate fees, which means that people with one car can borrow one if they just occasionally need a second car, and people in high public transport areas may not have a car at all and just use that share car. As the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism and Major Events, I think this will be amazing, particularly for food and wine producers. The great wine purveyors like us to be able to taste their product, so driverless cars will offer that into the future. I think it will lead to jobs growth.
This is a great innovation. I am glad that Victoria is leading the way at a national level, but I think that the Minister for Public Transport is correct in saying that we do require a national approach to this. State road laws are primarily the responsibility of the states, but I hope that the transport ministers ministerial council will take a coordinated approach to this and that other states will benefit from the trials that will be occurring. I look forward to it not being too many years away, and I certainly hope, not that I am saying I am going to retire any time soon, that when I am in retirement I can be in one of these great driverless cars, sitting back with my feet up, enjoying a glass of wine, watching a movie or just enjoying the countryside. I think it is great. The brave new world is here. I commend the bill to the house.