Australian regulator wants self-driving car owners exempt from drunk driving law

With automated cars set to be on Australian streets from 2020, the Australian National Transport Commission (NTC) thinks owners of self-driving cars be excluded from traditional Driving Under Influence (DUI) laws for drugs and alcohol.

In a new report, that calls for changing driving laws to support automated vehicles, the NTC suggests requiring occupants of self-driving cars to be sobernegates the benefits of the technology.

''One potential barrier to receiving the full benefits of automated vehicles would be to require occupants of automated vehicles, who are not driving, to comply with drink-driving laws,'' the report reads. ''This would create a barrier to using a vehicle to safely drive home after drinking.''

The NTC has called for making legislative amendments to drink and drug driving laws to exempt people using self-driving technology, but admit it would only be applicable in cases where the driver's vehicle was fully automated.

''A risk of providing exemptions is that an occupant may subsequently choose to take over driving the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,'' the report read.

''If this occurred, they would become the driver of the vehicle and drink and drug driving offences would apply.''

In the report released today, the NTC argued there is a "clear-cut" justification for the exemption because there is "no possibility that a human could drive a dedicated automated vehicle."

"The situation is analogous to a person instructing a taxi driver where to go," the report said.

The NTC, an independent advisory board was set up to advise Australian governments on law reforms to prepare for the arrival of Automated Driving Systems (ADS).

According to the report, the exemption should not apply to riders in vehicles with limited automation.

"Any exemptions should not apply to the fallback-ready user of a vehicle with conditional automation," it said.

"A fallback-ready user is required to be receptive to requests to intervene or system failures and must take over the dynamic driving task if the ADS cannot perform it."