Testing of Automated Vehicles

Australia's transport and infrastructure ministers support the safe, on-road testing of Automated Vehicles. This will help build public confidence by demonstrating the safety and benefits of the technology, while assisting regulators in the development of future requirements.

Import into Australia

If you represent an organisation that wishes to import a vehicle(s) for the purpose of market/engineering/service model evaluation and research or other testing of an Automated Driving System (ADS), or related technology (whether or not a section 10A approval holder), you may be able to instead apply for a Discretionary Approval for trials under Regulation 11 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989.

Automated Driving System

An ADS is the hardware and software that are collectively capable of performing the entire driving task on a sustained basis within a design domain (e.g. motorway driving, platooning or manoeuvring on low speed roads). This term is used specifically to describe a Level of Driving Automation of 3, 4, or 5 (conditional, high, or full), as set out in SAE J3016 and associated with the human driver (if any) being able to perform secondary activities not related to the driving task. Road use law may currently prohibit the operation of ADS in this way, except as part of a trial.

Vehicle trials

Approvals under Regulation 11 or Regulation 18 are not intended to be for the large-scale commercial deployment of automated vehicles into the Australian market and so the number of vehicles of any make and model should be restricted to a minimum number necessary for the evaluation/research program.

It is expected that a typical trial would involve no more than 1–3 vehicles of a type, although the number of vehicles required to trial a particular use case may necessitate a larger number (such as trials for compatibility with infrastructure and/or the impact on transport systems and passenger services). It is also expected that at least part of the research gathered will ultimately be used towards certifying a vehicle that fully complies with Australia's national vehicle standards, the Australian Design Rules (ADRs) applicable to the relevant category of vehicle.

Road use

Where a vehicle is intended to be used on public roads (defined by most road transport agencies as “roads and road related areas”), you are strongly advised to provide written support from the road transport agency in the jurisdiction where you intend to deploy the vehicle.

The National Transport Commission's Guidelines

You should refer to the Austroads/National Transport Commission's Guidelines for Trials of Automated Vehicles in Australia , which have been endorsed by Australia's transport ministers to promote Australia as a testbed for automated vehicle technology. For more information on how these are applied in the state or territory where you wish to conduct the trial (which may include working through a permit process), contact the relevant road transport agency listed in Section 8 of the Guidelines. The guidelines are intended to:

  • Support nationally consistent conditions for automated vehicle trials in Australia
  • Provide certainty and clarity to industry regarding expectations when trialing in Australia
  • Help road transport agencies manage trials in their own state or territory and across state borders
  • Establish minimum standards of safety
  • Help assure the public that roads are being used safely
  • Help raise awareness and acceptance of automated vehicles in the community.

While the supporting road transport agency will assume responsibility for the use of the vehicle during trial conditions, the Approval holder will remain responsible for the disposal of the vehicle after the trial. The conditions of the Approval may include that the vehicle is to be exported or destroyed at the end of the trial period, unless otherwise agreed by the supporting road transport agency.

How to apply to import an automated vehicle for trials

After reading this page, you will need to decide whether you are eligible to apply under the Test and Evaluation Vehicles option using Regulation 18; or the Discretionary Approval option using Regulation 11. In either case, refer to the main How to apply page to get started. For the Discretionary Approval option, follow the Special Purpose Vehicle option for the first part of the process. The 8 steps to import a vehicle page will give you additional information on fees and other government agencies that you may need to deal with regarding duties, taxes and other requirements.

In addition to the documents normally required when you commence an import application, you are advised to provide a letter of support from the road transport agency where you intend to deploy the vehicle for use in trials. You are also requested to provide the information below (which may be drawn from the information provided to the road transport agency in seeking the letter of support).

This information is needed in order to fully identify each vehicle involved and the level of compliance with the ADRs. Where exemptions to ADRs are being sought it is also needed to establish the intended use and so the risk to participants and other road users.

Information to be provided about the Vehicle

  • A description of the vehicle, including identification such as VIN or chassis number, build date, country of origin, whether left-hand drive (or no steering control) and whether new or used.
  • A list of ADRs applicable to that vehicle category and whether the vehicle meets or would be likely to meet if tested (such as through compliance with equivalent or similar standards), or does not meet, each applicable ADR. Where an applicable ADR cannot be met, advice on what other control measures will be applied in order to minimise the risk.

As guidance, non-compliances with ADRs are more likely to be agreed to where they relate to the ADS and its operation, rather than other unrelated requirements such as occupant protection, seatbelts, braking, lighting, tyres and safety glazing. If unsure of the applicable vehicle category, seek further advice from the department.

  • The level of automation of any ADS, as set out in SAE J3016.
  • Whether the vehicle is a connected vehicle (in respect to the driving system) and so possibly a raised risk to cyber security.
  • The relationship (if any) between the importing organisation, the vehicle manufacturer and the ADS Entity.

Information to be provided about the Trial

  • A description of the trial, including whether it is primarily for evaluation and research or towards certifying a vehicle to the ADRs, how many vehicles are involved; how and where the vehicle will be used i.e. public roads (defined by road transport agencies as roads and road related areas) and/or test tracks, an end date of the trial and disposal plans for the vehicle.
  • The reasons why a vehicle that is already being supplied to the Australian market would not be suitable.
  • If the vehicle is intended to be used on public roads:
    • Whether the ADS will be in operation when the vehicle is travelling on public roads.
    • Whether a human driver will be present and if so, whether it is intended that they be able to perform secondary activities not related to the driving task while the ADS is in operation.
    • The extent of use on public roads e.g. with all mixed traffic, separated from oncoming traffic, separated from all traffic, lower speed use (<40km/h), parking areas only etc.
    • Whether any members of the public will be permitted to operate/control the vehicle or otherwise be an occupant of the vehicle.

Large-scale commercial deployment

Information on the certification of vehicles more generally, for progressing to large-scale commercial deployment, can be found at Vehicle Certification and the ADRs and categories of vehicles can be found at ADRs and Applicability Summaries.

Contact the department if you require any further information or assistance on importing automated vehicles, or Automated Vehicles for general information on automated vehicles in Australia.

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Last Updated: 12 April, 2018