Cabinet approves legislation to test Autonomous vehicles on public roads

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross TD, has taken the first steps to provide for the testing on Irish roads of autonomous vehicles.

Minister Ross today welcomed the Government’s support for a range of measures to be delivered under the Future Jobs Initiative. These include some of the key measures in the Road Traffic (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which Government recently approved. As well as the existing provision to give legal effect to the Variable Speed Limit and Lane Control Signalling regimes that are being progressed on the M50, the Bill will be amended in the Oireachtas to allow for testing, under strict guidelines, of vehicles in autonomous mode.

The Minister said “Of course, our priority is always the safety of our roads for all users. But this is a rapidly developing sector right across the globe, including in the EU, and it is important that we make the most of these developments for not just transport, but also the wider economy. There are real opportunities to grow jobs, while also finding ways to make our roads safer and more efficient and even sustainable. That is why I am bringing forward legislation to enable new provisions to facilitate testing, within strict guidelines, of cars in autonomous mode on our roads. We are eager to facilitate this growing technology, but as always, safety for our road users remains our top priority.”

Additional Information

• Work on guidelines for the testing of autonomous vehicles began in late 2018, led by the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS). The work was progressed through an Interdepartmental Steering Group on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles composed of representatives from a number of Government departments and agencies, and a Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Stakeholder Group composed of representatives from the public sector, industry and academia.

• An administrative review of Ireland’s road traffic law was carried out as part of due diligence regarding the draft guidelines for testing, which has resulted in the decision today to seek approval to make changes to Road Traffic legislation.

• While guidelines for the testing of autonomous vehicles remain of the utmost priority, other work is ongoing in relation to connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). DTTAS has increased its engagement in forums such as the UNECE GRVA Working Party on Connected and Automated/Autonomous Vehicles and the EU Single Platform on Co-operative, Connected, Automated and Autonomous Mobility (CCAM) and is closely monitoring developments at EU and international level. Work has begun on a strategic roadmap and plan for CAVs, which will set out a high level the actions needed across the entire system over the coming years to drive the development of the connected and autonomous mobility sector in Ireland and to prepare for the introduction of CAVs. The strategic roadmap is due to be delivered in Q3 2020.

• Work is also ongoing in relation to connected (rather than autonomous) vehicles. By way of example, Transport Infrastructure Ireland recently received funding under the Connecting Europe Facility to run a C-ITS (Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems) pilot project, which focuses on connected vehicle services. The pilot will be deployed on the M1, M50 through to the N7, M7 motorway to Limerick, M8, N18 and M18 around Shannon. The pilot will trial a number of vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) services on select sections of the route, using a communications network that will include short range Wi-Fi (known as ITS-G5) and standard cellular communications.

• Other transport and tourism FJI deliverables for 2020 include a policy direction document on drones, an electric vehicle grant scheme for SPSVs and business development supports for tourism. A scoping study on productivity in the transport sector is also planned.