Elon Musk has promised more than once that fully self-driving cars are just around the corner, but are you allowed to use Tesla Autopilot on Australian roads?
Tesla’s continue to get smarter, but the dream of getting some well-earned sleep while your car drives you home is still a long way off in Australia.
Here’s what you need to know about the legalities of Tesla Autopilot and Full Self-Driving in Australia.
It depends on the level of Tesla Autopilot driver assistance in question as to whether it’s legal to use in Australia.
As it stands today, Tesla Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot are legal in Australia and available to local Tesla owners, but the Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta is not.
For the uninitiated, Tesla Autopilot supports three tiers of driver assistance, depending on how much you want to spend, how much you trust your car and what’s permitted under local law.
The basic Tesla Autopilot comes standard with all new Tesla’s in Australia, offering Traffic-Aware Adaptive Cruise Control and Autosteer. The former matches your speed to the surrounding traffic, while the latter assists with steering within a clearly marked lane.
Building on this, Tesla Enhanced Autopilot is a $5,100 optional extra in Australia. For highway driving, it adds Auto Lane Change and Navigate on Autopilot. This can actively guide your Tesla from a highway’s on-ramp to off-ramp, including suggesting lane changes, navigating interchanges, automatically engaging the indicator and taking the correct exit.
Tesla Enhanced Autopilot also includes Autopark for single touch for parallel or perpendicular parking, as well as Summon and Smart Summon which can drive short distances to you with no-one behind the wheel. All of these features are available in Australia, although Tesla owners report the results can be a bit hit-and-miss.
Summon moves a Tesla forward and backwards up to 12 metres in, or out of, a parking space. Smart Summon goes further, manoeuvring the car out of a parking space and around corners to meet you when you are within 65 metres of the car.
Finally, the Tesla Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta is $10,100 in Australia. All new Tesla’s have the hardware to support it, and the car maker will take your money today, but you can’t use it yet. When Tesla releases the FSD Beta locally, it will be available via a software update.
The FSD Beta can identify stop signs and traffic lights, automatically slowing your vehicle to a stop on approach. There are also plans to add Autosteer on city streets.
Even then, Tesla insists that FSD does not make the vehicle autonomous and requires “a fully attentive driver who is ready to take immediate action at all times”.
When will Tesla’s Full Self-Driving be legal in Australia?
The Commonwealth, states and territories are developing a national framework to regulate vehicles with automated driving systems “capable of undertaking the entire dynamic driving task on a sustained basis”.
The framework is expected to commence in 2026–27.
For now, Australian Design Rule (ADR) 90 sets the requirements for the different levels of advanced driver assistance steering systems. It does not allow fully automated vehicles in Australia, but does allow driver assistance features, so long as drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel.
Around the country, State laws prohibit the use of vehicles that do not comply with ADR standards. Car makers can apply for an exemption or permit to conduct automated vehicle trials in some jurisdictions.
Other laws also come into play. For example, under regulation 297 of the Australian Road Rules, drivers are required to have “proper control” of a vehicle even when driver assistance features are engaged. This includes steering, braking, reversing and lane changing.
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