Australia’s Public Transport Disability Standards and CAVs
Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technologies are advancing more quickly than governments can regulate. People with disability have high expectations of CAVs. However, development of standards and regulations – especially for people with disability, who need the technology the most – risks falling behind.
CAV technologies are developing at a rapid pace around the world. New and emerging technologies are being developed and trialled globally, and are on the cusp of being ready to transform the transport sector.
People with disability have high expectations of CAVs. Understandably so, as the ultimate promise is that people with disability may simply be able to board a CAV and direct it where to go. Before that ultimate promise can be fulfilled safely, CAVs have the potential to fundamentally change to how public transport is accessed.
The reality in most countries though is – as concluded in the report of the International Transport Forum, Economic Benefits of Improving Transport Accessibility – that:
In many ITF/OECD countries, legislators and governments have explicitly enshrined accessibility as a legal requirement and have thus made it a key objective of transport policy; but progress in this field is slow and the implementation of accessibility-enhancing measures is constrained by a number of barriers. These include competing demands for investment due to budget constraints, and an unclear understanding of the economic benefits of improved accessibility including how these benefits fit in a transport investment context.
In the autonomous shuttle trial that was conducted in 2018-2019 at La Trobe University, La Trobe was not able to include people with disability due to concerns of the ethics, insurance, and health and safety teams. This illustrates the risk that the people with disability could be left behind, simply because the focus is on mainstream usage.
There are positive signs for the disability community though, of which this project is one. This project starts amidst a raised level of attention for the disability community, due to the Disability Royal Commission and the development of a new National Disability Strategy. Dr Ben Gauntlett, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, mentioned late last year that the balance between human rights and economic arguments is shifting towards providing people with disability the right to live their lives as they choose to, not as they are forced to.
This project will:
- Examine if and how CAV modes and services can be incorporated into the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Disability Transport Standards) to deliver access to our cities and regions for people with disability.
- Clarify the extent to which the current Disability Transport Standards can integrate CAV and associated technologies
- Assess the requirements that people with disability will have with these emerging technologies and inform the defining of a framework
- Recommend amendments that can be implemented through the current reform process to the Disability Transport Standards