IMAGINE you have just finished a heavy session down at the local bar, you hop into your self-driving car and let it take you home.
You're pulled up for a random breath test and even though you have consumed more drinks than a rooftop session with Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson, you are free to continue on your journey.
With automated cars tipped to be hitting our streets from 2020, this scenario could soon be a reality for many Australians.
But should owner's of self-driving cars be excluded from traditional DUI laws for drugs and alcohol? The Australian National Transport Commission (NTC) certainly thinks so.
In a new report, Changing driving laws to support automated vehicles, the NTC suggest requiring occupants of self-driving cars to be sober negates 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 called for legislative amendments to be made 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."
While self-driving cars will be on Australian roads by 2020, they will be implemented with current cars operated by humans. As such, drivers could be required to take over the automated vehicle in a situation where human intervention is needed to avoid risk.
This means applying such laws in a situation where a driver could take control of the vehicle at any point during the trip would create issues - until the time vehicles become fully automated.
Even if cars were capable of self-driving for the entire journey, the NTC warns people could still be at risk if the temptation to manually take control grew too much for drivers.
With this in mind, the commission recommended the application of an exemption be clear-cut for dedicated automated vehicles.
"The occupants will always be passengers. The situation is analogous to a person instructing a taxi driver where to go," the report read.
"Any exemptions should not apply to the fallback-ready user of a vehicle with conditional
automation. 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."
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