15. Based on 90% of road deaths being attributable to human error and 1,527 average road fatalities per year in Australia since 2000.

The Road to
Driverless Cars

The next great technological revolution is happening on our roads. It may be hard to imagine, but in a few short decades our cars will be driving themselves: equipped with radar, lidar (technology that uses a laser to judge the distance between a sensor and a target), GPS and an array of high-tech sensors and computers, they'll get us from A to B faster, safer and smarter than ever before.

What could the future hold? Start

Rio Tinto begins trials of driverless trucks at mines in the Pilbara.

This marks the first time fully autonomous vehicles have been used in Australia. Five years later, the trucks have moved over 100 million tonnes of earth, leading to improvements in safety and productivity.1

Credit: Google


The McKinsey Global Institute publishes a landmark paper on disruptive technologies.

The paper predicts that self-driving vehicles will generate up to $1.9 trillion USD for the global economy over the next decade.2


Google wins 25 permits for the testing of autonomous vehicles in the US.3

Former chief of strategic planning at General Motors Larry Burns says Australia's population density makes it the perfect market to test and refine autonomous vehicles, particularly in the Canberra area. Adelaide is highlighted as an ideal environment for developing the associated hardware and software.4

Credit: Google


Testing of Google's first consumer-focused self-driving car begins in the US.5

Governor of South Australia Hieu Van Le announces plans to modernise the state's Motor Vehicles Act to accommodate "self-driving and highly automated cars", making South Australia the first state to do this.6

Credit: Google


The "highly autonomous" Volvo XC90 is released.

A stepping stone to a fully self-driving car, the XC90 arrives in Australia7, prompting the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) to call for changes in legislation and infrastructure to prepare for driverless cars across the country.8

Credit: Google


Self-driving cars start to appear on urban Australian roads, as predicted by Larry Burns and Accenture.9

Technology developed in the US by the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA), which uses Lidar technology (a radar equivalent using lasers) to effectively "see" the road, is tested for its ability to allow driverless cars to navigate unpredictable outback highways.10

Credit: Google


Nissan, Google, Volvo, BMW, Audi and Tesla all offer commercially-available vehicles with Level 2 autonomy or higher.11

According to Strategy Analytics, by 2020 one in ten vehicles on the road will drive with Level 2 autonomy, meaning multiple controls - such as lane keeping and cruise control - are automated at once.12

Credit: Google


Fully autonomous cars are now on the market.

Vehicles where you "literally get in the car, go to sleep and wake up at your destination" as Elon Musk describes it13 are available to buy, although their legality varies from country to country. It takes another few years for regulatory acceptance to become widespread.


As many as three-quarters of vehicles on roads all over the world are now autonomous.

According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers14,these vehicles will travel in their own designated lanes at speeds of up to 160km/h. Despite the high speeds, accidents are almost unheard-of: the technology is expected to save over a thousand lives a year in Australia alone.15

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