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How driverless cars could be on Australian roads within five years

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Driverless cars could be seen on Australian roads by as soon as 2020 if state and territory governments changed their traffic laws, according to the managing director of Volvo Australia.

Kevin McCann, speaking on the eve of the first Australian autonomous-driven Volvo car in Adelaide, says traffic laws need to be changed to keep up with the rapidly developing autonomous drive technology.

“As the Adelaide trial will demonstrate, autonomous drive technology is here now,” Mr McCann said.

“There will be roads where the technology is applicable and the autonomous features of the car can work effectively, for example on sections of the F3 freeway in NSW, and the Western Freeway in Victoria.

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“I am confident that within three or four years we can have cars with autonomous drive features being driven on prescribed roads if state governments change their laws to accommodate them. Currently there are legal restrictions which require the driver to be fully in control of the car at all times,” he said.

“If the laws are changed we are ready to bring autonomous driven cars to the Australian market.”

The car that will be used in the trial is the Volvo XC90 – which Tech Guide had a chance to experience earlier this year – with features like automatic lane keeping, adaptive cruise control and queue assist.

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As we experienced on our drive of the XC90 around Canberra, the car can react to its surroundings and other traffic – including cars that don’t have autonomous technology onboard.

In the road trial in Adelaide, which will take place on November 7, 2015 on the Southern Expressway, the XC90 will be driven at up to 70km/h and be followed by a pace car.

The point of the trial will be to demonstrate how the autonomous technology in a car available to purchase now, can interact with other road users and in various traffic conditions.

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Autonomous – or self driving – technology is being developed by all the major car manufacturers and is being viewed as the next major leap forward in the motoring industry.

Today the road laws says a driver must be in complete control of the vehicle with both hands on the steering wheel. The features of the XC90 can be used legally today but a driver must still have their hands on the wheel.

The days when a car can operate completely on its own is still a way off yet.

So anyone thinking they can have a few drinks and let the car do all the work will have to make a Plan B – for now. It’s the same thing for anyone who thinks they will be able to kick back with a book or check their emails while the car is driving itself.