Electric vehicles (EV) and automated vehicles consistently make headlines, sparking debates of safety concerns and environmental benefits.

The journey towards full automation comprises five levels, from automatic emergency braking at level 0 to full automation at level 5. Despite marketing terms like “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving Capability,” Tesla suggests that current automation technologies hover around level two – basic driver assistance. It becomes essential to address safety concerns and manage expectations, especially with full automation still a distant reality.

Safety Concerns and Statistics

Tesla’s Autopilot has reportedly been linked 17 road deaths since May 2022, being involved in 736 out of 807 automation-related car accidents.

For Australia, questions arise about whether current State and Territory laws adequately address the challenges arising from the progression towards level five automation. National Transport Commission position papers identify 700 barriers within Australian laws, notably:

  1. Personal injury insurance
  2. Property damage
  3. Data access
  4. Road safety enforcement – policing
  5. Vehicle repairs and consumer guarantees
  6. Importation regulation
  7. End of life disposals

Emerging Challenges

EV owners residing in apartments or under body corporate management have difficulty charging their vehicles on common property. Legislation in NSW and the ACT guidelines have been introduced to support retrofitting existing buildings with safe EV charging stations. Moreover, the National Construction Code now mandates that all new apartment buildings be designed and constructed to be EV charging station ready from October 2023.

Legal Preparedness

The question remains: Are we legally prepared for the imminent progress in EVs and automated driving? The answer is a cautious no. Numerous issues noted above demand attention to ensure a safe and economical future for these technologies. While progress is inevitable, inefficient planning and outdated laws should not impede it. Ultimately, the safety of real lives and property is at stake, emphasising the urgency of aligning legal frameworks with the rapid advancements in EV and automation technologies.

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