Australian Advisory Body Says 'Driving' Drunk Or On Drugs In An Autonomous Car Should Be Legal

Visitors in a simulator of future self-driving cars at CES in 2016. Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images 
Visitors in a simulator of future self-driving cars at CES in 2016. Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images 

Oh my, oh my. The day has come. An advisory body to the Australian government brought up the thing legislators will probably be debating until there are no longer steering wheels or pedals in road cars: whether people should be allowed to “drive” drunk or on drugs in an autonomous car.

The National Transport Commission is the independent advisory body in Australia that argued for people being able to get in the “driver’s seat” of autonomous cars while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, making the predictable and seemingly valid argument that it has safety benefits in both a quicker adoption of driverless cars and in transport to and from places while unable to drive yourself.

(Then again, if you have an autonomous car, isn’t there not really a choice about whether to “drive” drunk? Like, you either let the car drive or hail a ride home and let someone else do it? This is why this stuff gets weird.)


Anyway, the commission, which gives advice to the government through the Transport and Infrastructure Council, thinks “under the influence” laws could present barriers to the widespread uptake of self-driving cars. Here’s what the commission had to say in a recent report, emphasis ours:

The NTC believes that the introduction of automated vehicles will have overall safety benefits for the road network by reducing the risk of human error. ... 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. This would create a barrier to using a vehicle to safely drive home after drinking. ...

Legislative amendments could be made to exempt people who set a vehicle with high or full automation in motion from the drink- and drug-driving provisions.

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

The report went on to say that an exemption to under-the-influence laws is “clear cut” for autonomous vehicles that aren’t designed for a human driver—ones with no wheels or pedals. That’s more understandable, given that a person likely wouldn’t be able to take control back from the car even if they wanted to.

Don’t you love talking about humans not being able to take control back from the machines? Isn’t the robot apocalypse exciting?


Get your underground bunkers ready, kids, doomsday is coming!

Staff writer, Jalopnik

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If there is good reason for anyone to be excited about autonomous cars other than being able to go out and get hammered, then sleep in your own bed without having to worry about surge pricing and such nonsense, I have yet to hear about it.