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DWF appointed by cutting edge Australian tech start up YDrive

13 July 2020

DWF have been appointed by pioneering technology start up YDrive to provide commercial, regulatory and intellectual property advice in relation to its trial deployments of automatic passenger and logistic delivery vehicles in NSW. 

An autonomous vehicle (AV) is a combination of various networking systems and sensors that assist computerised control of vehicles capable of being operated without human assistance. 
The global autonomous vehicle market demand is expected to reach 4.2 million units by 2030, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 63.1% over that period, according to a report by US research group Grand View in April 2020. 

YDrive autonomous passenger vehicles

YDrive have provided the first ever driverless vehicle to mix with traffic on Newcastle’s roads which has started ferrying passengers along Wharf Road as part of a three-month trial.

Running at a maximum speed of 20km/hr, the vehicle uses an array of sophisticated technology, including 360-degree cameras and input sensors, to avoid cars and objects.

The operation is overseen by an onboard chaperone – a local bus driver who is greeting passengers and answering questions after undergoing training to control the vehicle via a control pad should any issues arise.

The trial in Newcastle forms part of the Newcastle "smart city" program. With the help of Federal Government funding, the project will assess driverless vehicles in mixed traffic conditions and the role they can play in multimodal transport systems.

Autonomous vehicle regulation in Australia

The National Transport Commission (NTC) has responsibility for mapping out a pathway to deliver a nationally consistent regulatory framework that will support the safe commercial deployment of AVs in Australia. The NTC released its final proposal on how AVs should be regulated on Australian roads last month and on 5 June, Transport Ministers agreed to work towards establishing a single, national approach to regulating AVs with a national regulator and a national law, supported by a general safety duty. 

Australia has been ranked first in the world for regulations supporting autonomous vehicles but less advanced in terms of other factors affecting adoption such as energy policy and road pricing.

The NTC, in conjunction with Australian State governments, will continue to refine the details of the approach over the next 12 months and submit their recommendations for detailed implementation in the first half of 2021. A primary objective of the reform is to ensure Australia offers a single market for AVs. 

One of the main questions to be decided is whether the single national regulator should enforce the general safety duty through Commonwealth or state and territory applied law. A second important question is whether and how due diligence obligations should be imposed on executive officers of the automated driving system entity (ADSE) to ensure the ADSE complies with its safety duty.

Other specific legal issues include obtaining state by state permits or exemptions from legislative obligations in the Australian Road Rules and other road transport legislation, the concept of legal responsibility by the ADSE and the certification of safety criteria for AVs to meet manufacturing standards.

In 2017, NSW passed the NSW Transport Legislation Amendment (Automated Vehicle Trials and Innovation) Act 2017 providing for the safe testing of highly automated vehicles (including fleets) in NSW to guage how automated vehicles can support a safer, more productive and sustainable future transport system. 

According to Darren Gough, founder and CEO of YDrive: "The benefits of automated vehicles include significant road safety and better productivity, mobility and environmental outcomes." 

Commenting on the appointment of DWF, Matthew Hawken, Consultant at DWF, said: "DWF in Australia have a strong strategic commitment to the global Technology Sector and a particular interest in disruptive technologies".   

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