• Mark Brady Adelaide Law School, Faculty of the Professions, University of Adelaide,


Recent deaths involving automated vehicles have sparked calls for legislative reform. Scholars argue that the law lags behind new and disruptive technological innovations. Autonomous vehicles are hailed as the next step in the shifting paradigm of disruptive technology. With the introduction of automated vehicles, changes will occur in many areas of law and society. These changes will impact notions of property, identity and the physical landscape of Australia, including the architecture of the future fleet of motor vehicles and the infrastructure surrounding mass road transport. The legal frameworks in Australia appear fairly well adapted to the introduction of automated vehicles as there are several structures in place to allow the law to investigate and adapt to new technology. This article seeks to outline some of the social and legal impacts arising from the introduction of automated vehicles. It is structured in three parts. First it outlines a brief history of automated vehicles. Then it considers some different areas of law intersected by the introduction of automated vehicles; criminal law, privacy law, personal injury and product liability. Finally, it reflects on some of the potential physical and social impacts surrounding the introduction of automated vehicles. It concludes with whether the Australian law is adaptable to this new and disruptive technology. 

Author Biography

Mark Brady, Adelaide Law School, Faculty of the Professions, University of Adelaide,

Lecturer, Adelaide Law School, Faculty of the Professions, University of Adelaide, BA, LLB (Hons), GDLP, PhD Candidate, Griffith University Law Futures Centre, Queensland.



A Articles/Books/Reports

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Li, Qing et al, ‘Springrobot: A Prototype Autonomous Vehicle and its Algorithms for Lane Detection’ (2004) 5(4) IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems 300

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Marchant, Gary E and Rachel A Lindor, 'The Coming Collision between Autonomous Vehicles and the Liability System' (2012) 52 Santa Clara Law Review 1321

McFarland, Matt ‘The backlash against self-driving cars officially begins’ (10 January 2017) CNN Tech

McNamee, Eugene, ‘An Egg Shaped Bowl: Law, Invention, Technology’ (2012) 37 Australian Feminist Law Journal 83

Mercer, Christina, ‘Which companies are making driverless cars?’ (2018) Techworld

Mercer, David, ‘Technology and the law: dealing with the “law lag”’ (4 July 2011) Weekend Australian

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Newcomer, Eric, ‘Uber’s Autonomous Cars Banned in Arizona After Fatal Crash’ (27 March 2018) Bloomberg Technology

Nott, George, ‘Could an autonomous vehicle death happen on Australian roads too?’ (4 April 2018) CIO

Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, ‘Social issues relating to land-based automated vehicles in Australia’, House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources, (2017)

Peters, Timothy D, ‘I, Corpenstein: Mythic, Metaphorical and Visual Renderings of the Corporate Form in Comics and Film’ (2017) 30 International Journal of Semiotics and Law 427

Queensland University of Technology, CARRS-Q Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety, State of the Road: Sleepiness and Fatigue (April 2015)

Roseman, Rachael, 'When Autonomous Vehicles Take Over the Road: Rethinking the Expansion of the Fourth Amendment in a Technology-Driven World' (2013-2014) 20(1) Richmond Journal of Law & Technology 11

Sanchez, Dana, 'Collective technologies: autonomous vehicles' (Australian Council of Learned Academies, 2015)

Schellekens, Maurice, ‘Self-driving cars and the chilling effect of liability law’ (2015) 31 Computer Law & Security Review 506

Siddiqui, Faiz, ‘Tech firms, government officials put the brakes on testing self-driving vehicles after fatal Uber crash’ The Washington Post (27 March 2018)

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Snir, Adi, ‘Dealing with the Law Lag’ (6 May 2016) LegalVison

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Surden, Harry and Mary-Anne Williams ‘Technological Opacity, Predictability, and Self-Driving Cars’ (2016) 38 Cardozo Law Review 121

Swanson, Andrew R '"Somebody Grab the Wheel!": State Autonomous Vehicle Legislation and the Road to a National Regime' (2014) 97(4) Marquette Law Review 1085

Tangermann, Victor, ‘Tesla Model X in Autopilot Killed a Driver. Officials Aren’t Pleased With How Tesla Handled It’ (2 April 2018) Futurism

The Engineer, ‘Last week’s poll: responses to Uber crash’, (27 March 2018) The Engineer

Tranter, Kieran, ‘Disrupting Technology Disrupting Law’ (2017) Law, Culture and the Humanities

Tranter, Kieran, 'The History of the Haste-Wagons': The Motor Car Act (1909) (Vic.), emergent technology and the call for law’ (2005) 29 Melbourne University Law Review 843

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Wadhwa, Vivek, ‘Laws and Ethics Can’t Keep Pace with Technology’ (2014) MIT Technology Review

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Zender, James F, ‘Should We Ban Autonomous Vehicles?’ (29 March 2018) Psychology Today

B Cases

Privacy Commissioner v Telstra Corporation Limited [2017] FCAFC 4 (19 January 2017)

Telstra Corporation Limited and Privacy Commissioner [2015] AATA 991 (18 December 2015)

C Legislation

Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth)

Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth)

Law Reform Commission Act 1973 (Cth)

Law Reform Commission Act 1967 (NSW)

Locomotive Act 1865 (Imp)

Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 (NSW)

Motor Accident Insurance Act 1995 (Qld)

Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA)

Motor Vehicle (Third Party Insurance) Act 1943 (WA)

Motor Vehicles (Trials of Automotive Technologies) Amendment Act 2016 (SA)

National Transport Commission Act 2003 (Cth)

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

Road Transport (Third-Party Insurance) Act 2008 (ACT)

Road Transport (Third-Party Insurance) Act 1999 (ACT)

Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth)

Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth)

Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic)

E Other

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, <>