Self-Driving Cars Australia

Learn all about self-driving cars and when they might be hitting Australian roads right here with Savvy.
Published on December 7th, 2020
  Written by 
Thomas Perrotta
Thomas Perrotta is the managing editor of Savvy. Throughout his time at the company, Thomas has specialised in personal finance, namely car, personal and small loans, although he has also written on topics ranging from mortgages to business loans to banking and more. Thomas graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Media, majoring in journalism, and has previously had his work published in The Advertiser.
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   Reviewed by 
Bill Tsouvalas


Bill Tsouvalas
Bill Tsouvalas is the managing director and a key company spokesperson at Savvy. As a personal finance expert, he often shares his insights on a range of topics, being featured on leading news outlets including News Corp publications such as the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun, Fairfax Media publications such as the Australian Financial Review, the Seven Network and more. Bill has over 15 years of experience working in the finance industry and founded Savvy in 2010 with a vision to provide affordable and accessible finance options to all Australians. He has built Savvy from a small asset finance brokerage into a financial comparison website which now attracts close to 2 million Aussies per year and was included in the BRW’s Fast 100 in 2015 as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. He’s passionate about helping Australians make financially savvy decisions and reviews content across the brand to ensure its accuracy. You can follow Bill on LinkedIn.
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The roads of Australia are on the cusp of a revolution. Self-driving cars, once relegated to science fiction, seem to be rapidly becoming a tangible reality, but how close are they really? Dive into what they are, how they work and when we might be seeing them on our roads right here in Savvy’s comprehensive guide to autonomous vehicles.

What are self-driving cars and how do they work?

Self-driving cars, also known as autonomous or driverless vehicles, are cars that can navigate and operate without human input. They rely on a complex combination of technologies to perceive their surroundings, make decisions and control the vehicle. While not all self-driving cars will be built the same way, the following is a breakdown of the general principles:

  • Sensors: these act as the car's eyes and ears, gathering information about the environment. Common sensors include cameras, radar, lidar (light detection and ranging) and ultrasonic sensors.
  • Localisation and mapping: the car needs to understand its position on the road and its surroundings. This involves using GPS, high-resolution maps and sensor data to create a real-time picture of the environment.
  • Planning and decision making: using AI and machine learning algorithms, the car processes sensor data, consults the map and determines the safest and most efficient path to reach the destination. This involves factoring in traffic rules, obstacles and other road users.
  • Control systems: once the car knows where to go, it needs to translate those decisions into actions. This involves controlling the steering, acceleration and braking systems to manoeuvre the vehicle safely.
  • Connections: in some cases, according to Hyundai, self-driving cars are able to communicate with infrastructure (such as certain traffic lights) and/or other vehicles on the road.

It’s important to note that self-driving car technology is still under development and there are different levels of autonomy. Some cars might require human supervision under certain conditions, while others might be fully autonomous in controlled environments. This is all theoretical at this stage, however, as these cars aren’t currently available in Australia

Do modern cars have self-driving features included?

Yes – although you may not realise it, your current car may already have self-driving features installed. According to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are common in Australian vehicles. These include features such as:

  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA): can gently steer your car back into its lane if its sensors pick up that you’re drifting across into another lane
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC): an advancement in cruise control technology which can adjust the speed of your car to maintain a safe distance between it and the car in front
  • Park assist: can automatically reverse or parallel park your car, although drivers may still need to operate the brakes and accelerator

A range of other safety technologies are also classified under ADAS, including Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), adaptive headlights and Lane Departure Warning (LDW), but these don’t contribute directly to autonomous car driving.

When will self-driving cars be available in Australia?

While there aren’t any immediate plans to unveil fully autonomous cars in Australia, there have been notable developments in the space in New South Wales.

The Dubbo Automated Smart Ute Project was a program run by Transport for NSW which saw a retrofitted Ford Ranger ute navigate a pre-mapped route in Dubbo without a driver. This was designed to present test cases and investigate the advantages and potential challenges involved in the integration of this technology in regional NSW.

Testing for the project started in 2019, with on-road driving being initiated (and subsequently completed) across several months in 2023. Ultimately, while there aren’t likely to be any driverless cars available for purchase in Australia any time soon, they may not be as far off as you might think.

However, if you’re looking at purchasing a vehicle with ADAS, you can compare a variety of car loans and other finance options with Savvy.

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