The Department of Transportation plans to introduce new regulations for self-driving cars in South Africa as autonomous vehicles (AVs) are expected to become a reality in the country in the not too distant future.
In its strategic performance plan for 2021/2022, the department said these vehicles will drive on roads that are barely or not at all controlled by humans.
It added that autonomous vehicles could solve a number of mobility problems for the country – including road safety, social inclusion, emissions and traffic congestion.
“The government has policies, laws and strategies in place to reap the benefits of AVs while minimizing risk and unintentional consequences,” it said.
“The new guidelines, laws and strategies should provide a welcoming environment for testing and developing AV technology.”
The department said it needs to ensure it is able to respond quickly to the regulatory challenges posed by new technologies “to ensure their safety, affordability and accessibility”.
To this end, it will seek to strengthen its research capacity, particularly with regard to security research and innovation, while maintaining close links with the wider research community.
“The division’s intended outcome in this area is to ensure that South Africa, as part of the global world affected by these technological advances, has greater support for these useful technologies that ultimately improve transportation efficiency,” it said.
The regulations for self-driving cars have come into increasing focus in recent years as models from Tesla and other vehicle manufacturers grow in popularity.
In April, Bloomberg reported that U.S. lawmakers are pushing for vehicle manufacturers to produce more autonomous vehicles as part of the country’s trade battles with China.
Lawmakers want the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to be able to exempt 15,000 self-driving vehicles per manufacturer from human driving safety standards, a number that would rise to 80,000 within three years.
Currently, US automakers can only produce 2,500 self-driving vehicles for testing purposes. However, not all regulatory news has been positive, and there are still some questions about self-driving cars.
Last month, US authorities launched probes into the fatal and fiery crash of a TeslaModel S in Houston that killed two people without anyone behind the wheel.
The deaths come at a critical time for Tesla, which has rolled out a feature it markets as “Full Self Driving” for numerous customers who are beta testing the technology before a broader release.
Read: New driver’s license to be introduced in South Africa next year: Mbalula