In the wake of research showing the technology can reduce rear-end crashes by 38 percent, VicRoads is mounting a campaign to make automated emergency braking standard for all Australian vehicles.
Automated emergency braking, which is already being fitted into many cars, uses sensors, cameras and radars to detect when a car is close to another vehicle or object. It automatically applies the brakes, and hard enough to save a life.
South Korea has made the technology mandatory for all cars by January 2019, while the European Commission has said these systems should be mandatory in all cars by 2020. In the US, 20 car makers have pledged to make these systems standard equipment by 2022.
In order for the technology to be made compulsory for new Australian cars, this would need to be included in changes to the Australian Design Rules, which are administered by the federal government.
These rules outline the requirements for all new cars imported to Australia.
VicRoads’ Acting Deputy Chief Executive, Robyn Seymour, said she wanted to see the automated braking technology added to the next review of national standards.
“In a range of forums we have had with the Commonwealth, we have been advocating for the fact that the Commonwealth has a key role to play in the space of road safety and they have one of the strongest capacities to ensure we are getting safer vehicles on the road,” she said.
“It is one of the technologies we know will be very effective in reducing crashes, so we’re keen to work with them on how we might develop that ADR.”
The technology could be key to reducing the road toll, which has been declining in Australia for decades but has increased in recent years. Victoria’s road toll was 259 last year, down from 290 the year before.
While changing the national standards is one solution, its impact could take decades, Ms Seymour said, as the standards apply to new cars and the average age of Victoria’s fleet is 10 years.
For instance, electronic stability control was made mandatory for all cars in 2011 – the most critical safety measure since seat belts, the federal government said at the time – but a high proportion of serious crashes involve older vehicles which do not have that technology.
According to the federal government, moves are under way to ensure the braking technology is widely adopted, with Australia contributing to a UN forum forging internationally agreed standards, including a requirement for automated braking, for new vehicles.
“This is important because vehicle sales in Australia represent less than 1 percent of the total world production of motor vehicles,” said a government spokeswoman.
“Regulation based on internationally agreed standards gives consumers access to the safest vehicles from the global market at the lowest possible cost.”
Ms Seymour said VicRoads was also pushing for other ways to encourage car makers to use automated braking, as well as lane keep assist, lane departure warnings and intelligent speed assist – technologies that are becoming increasingly available as cars undergo a shift to increased automation.
This includes urging Treasury to buy cars with these technologies for its Victorian fleet to increase the number of safer vehicles in the second hand market.
Minister for Roads and Road Safety Luke Donnellan said all new Victorian government vehicles must have a five-star rating by independent crash testing firm Australasian New Car Assessment Program, which will this year only award the top rating to cars with the braking technology.
Dr John Crozier, chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ trauma committee, which is reviewing the government’s 10-year road safety strategy, warned that the country was not on track to meet its target of reducing road deaths and injuries by 30 percent by 2020.
Australia should follow South Korea’s example, he said.
“That’s a much more populous country than Australia and it demonstrates how, if there is the political will, something can be mandated that quickly.”
In 2014 the RACV found that up to 40 percent of crashes, including fatal accidents, could be prevented by the technology.