Important life-saving vehicle technology which advocates have been urging the federal government to adopt for years has finally been mandated - but not until March 2023 at the earliest.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) systems, which automatically brake a vehicle when it detects the potential for a collision ahead, must be installed from that date on "all new models of vehicles", according to a government statement.
However, the statement was ambiguously worded to state that AEB won't be required on "all other new vehicles" until March, 2025.
And it will take until March 2024 before AEB systems are mandated for pedestrian protection.
Advocates such as Lauchlan McIntosh, who previously headed up the Australian Automobile Association and the vehicle crash safety testing authority ANCAP, said that the slow-moving, bureaucratic nature of introducing life-saving technologies such as AEB was a major impediment to saving lives on Australian roads.
The Trucking Industry Council estimated that it would take until 2050 for 95 per cent of the national heavy vehicle fleet to be fitted with AEB.
The Canberra community has experienced the tragic effects of this slow-moving adoption of advanced vehicle technology through the circumstances which led to the death of four-year-old Blake Corney on the Monaro Highway three years ago.
Blake was killed instantly from a brain injury when the family's Ford Territory was hit from behind by a medium-rigid tipper while the car sat queued at a red light.
Assistant minister to the deputy Prime Minister Kevin Hogan said the delay was required to give manufacturers "the time needed to effectively make the transition".
"To date, many systems have been unable to detect pedestrians," he said.
"These new national road vehicle standards would require light vehicle AEB systems to detect likely forward collisions with both vehicles and pedestrians to help keep some of our most vulnerable road users safe as well."
He said that implementing these new national road vehicle standards was "estimated to save 581 lives, and prevent 20,433 serious and 73,340 minor injuries over 35 years".
"As well as saving lives, the new standards are expected to return a net benefit of nearly $1.09 billion to the Australian economy, after considering all implementation costs," he said.
Independent vehicle safety testing authority ANCAP has been advocating heavily for standard AEB fitment since 2012, and this has delivered a voluntary fitment rate of 89.5 per cent across all new light vehicles.
It welcomed the mandate announcement, which chief executive Carla Hoorweg says will "push manufacturers that have been slow to introduce this technology, to catch up".
The federal joint Select Committee on Road Safety has been taking submissions on its next road safety strategy over the past few months and the need for an immediate AEB mandate - particularly for heavy vehicles - has been highlighted by a number of advocates.
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