SINGAPOREA collaboration between Australia and New Zealand could demonstrate how countries can pool resources to develop autonomous vehicles.

The South Pacific countries are to launch an Australian and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative, according to Peter Damen, chair of the executive steering committee of one of the partners, the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative.

The collaboration will “minimize duplication, share knowledge, accelerate learning and add to what each party is doing,” Damen says, elaborating on his presentation about ADVI during last month’s Autonomous Vehicles Asia 2017 conference in Singapore.

“The New Zealand government is now formally represented at a senior level on the joint governing committee and will contribute to the direction-setting and program development,” he adds. Touching on the similar shuttle bus trials under way in both countries, New Zealand test results will be added to information from Australia’s experience.

Damen says the successful adoption of autonomous vehicles will bring Australia more than A$100 billion ($75 billion) in societal benefits, including improved road safety and better commercial productivity through decreased congestion.

He is calling on other Asian countries to enter into bilateral and multilateral collaborative arrangements to work with Australia and New Zealand. Apart from better preparing communities for the AV era, he believes a strong regional focus will lead to “cooperation on regulation-setting and accelerating the uptake of AV technology.”

With road commuting accounting for 79% of all transport in Australia, Damen says it is imperative for Australia to capitalize on AV technology. “To be competitive, we must adopt driverless technology and do it early,” he says.

Following initial trials in July 2015 on roads closed to public use, subsequent initiatives to test driverless vehicles have been extended across Australia using public roads. In addition to car-sharing, heavy-vehicle and driverless-shuttle bus-services, the Australian government wants to develop AV systems for truck platooning, using AV systems in mines and developing connected intelligent transport systems in multimodal transport services.

The government also is assessing legislative changes that may be needed and how to frame awareness programs in how to use AV systems.

Now in its second of four phases, the country’s transition toward autonomous road transport is being coordinated under the ADVI, a partnership of government, industry and academia. It is  undertaking full-scale industry operational field tests, research, development and investigation involving about 100 partners, including automotive and technology companies such as Volvo, Mitsubishi, Telstra, Navya, EziMile, Seeing Machines and Codha Wireless.

Damen notes ADVI welcomes all parties that wish to participate, not just those already a formal part of the partnership. The third phase involves policy, legislative, regulatory and operational changes for wide-ranging adoption of driverless vehicles, while the fourth stage will see the introduction of such vehicles to public and private road networks.

“We have started on Phase 3 in parallel with Phase 2,” Damen says. “The intent is that Phase 2 runs for another 18 months and because Phase 3 is running in parallel to a certain extent, we are able to accelerate the outcomes.

“We are aiming for 2020 for Phase 4,” but it will depend on the outcomes of the earlier phases as well as a decision by a national transport infrastructure ministerial council that includes federal, state and local government representatives, added Damen.