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La Trobe University completes driverless Autonobus trial

ZDNet

Melbourne's La Trobe University has detailed findings of what it called successful on-campus trials of Navya's driverless "Autonobus" shuttle, which uses 360-degree cameras and sensor systems to detect objects and runs a set route based on map coordinates. A report on the trial by La Trobe and its project partners includes a number of recommendations, including further trials of the technology; considering autonomous vehicles in future infrastructure planning and investment decisions; and education and engagement of communities on autonomous vehicles. The Autonobus -- which drove students around La Trobe's Bundoora campus as part of a trial until July -- passed every test it went through, including safety, technical, operational, and passenger testing on a pre-programmed route, and interacting with pedestrians, cars, buses, and cyclists, according to Dean Zabrieszach, CEO of project partner HMI Technologies. "No other trial in Australia has tested an autonomous vehicle of this type in such a dense urban location," Zabrieszach said. "We have demonstrated that it can be done safely, without incident, and in compliance with road safety laws."


You're approaching an intersection. A child runs out. What happens next is up to technology

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Driverless cars could make our roads safer and reduce congestion. But the algorithms driving them will also have to make life-or-death decisions. At some stage in the future, a fully autonomous car may determine who lives and who dies on our roads. These machines are being tested right now and Australian politicians are looking overseas for leadership, emboldened by the promise of fewer fatalities and less congestion. At the moment, there must be a human behind the wheel of these cars at all times, but government agencies are already working on a legal framework for when machines are totally in control.


Senate committee considers EV boost to Australian health and mining

ZDNet

The public inquiry into the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia has heard that the mining sector and the health of Australians would benefit if there were more of them in the market. During the inquiry's second hearing on Friday in Canberra, Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Pilbara Metals Group, and the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) gave evidence to the committee. In a report produced by the AMEC, it was estimated that the lithium value chain -- which includes raw materials through to cells and battery packs -- could increase from $165 billion to $2 trillion by 2025 if more EVs were to be introduced down under. The chief executive of AMEC Warren Pearce said that rather than just exporting lithium, Australia should also focus on processing the minerals and manufacturing electric vehicle batteries, according to the ABC. AMEC says that Western Australia alone mines 60 percent of the world's supply of lithium used for the production of EV batteries.


Labor plans to stand up AU$3m Australian AI centre of excellence

ZDNet

Labor has revealed its intentions to establish a National Centre of AI Excellence, with Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy and the Future of Work Ed Husic saying the artificial intelligence-focused initiative will aim to boost local research efforts and skirt the loss of jobs AI is feared to cause. There are some things that machines are simply better at doing than humans, but humans still have plenty going for them. Here's a look at how the two are going to work in concert to deliver a more powerful future for IT, and the human race. Offering up a AU$3 million investment, Husic explained the centre would see the emergence of an AI lab with a mission of championing the development of ethical AI and the creation of an AI accelerator for industry. He expects it would also advance the generation of new jobs and prompt "deep" thinking about how to help people manage the impact of technology on the world of work, while also inviting state and territory governments to think about the evolution of AI and plan for its use to improve policy and decision-making.


Very little is stopping My Health Record being hooked up to robo-debt

ZDNet

As the Australian government in its various guises continues to deny the prospect of an automated Centrelink dreadbot being augmented with health data, reality keeps on pricking the bubble that My Health Record proponents seem determined to keep themselves encapsulated within. At the start of the opt-out window last week, Minister for Health Greg Hunt told reporters that Centrelink would not get its hands on Australians' health data, while also adding that security is better than the banks' and "defence-tested" -- and if that reassures any cyberconcerns, there is a very nice bridge across Sydney Harbour that could really do with a new owner. But a quick glance at the legislation that backs My Health Record shows that it is open to allowing the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) to pass information on to any government agency that can make a case for increasing public revenue. These are the sorts of clauses that allowed the likes of Bankstown City Council, Victorian Taxi Services, the RSPCA of Victoria, and Australia Post to get their hands on telecommunications data in the past. As late as Saturday, ADHA continued to push its own idea of when health information would be released, stating a higher threshold than that which exists in the legislation.


Defence backs Saber Astronautics with AU$1.2m contract for space security

ZDNet

The Australian government has handed out its latest round of Defence Innovation Hub contracts, investing a total of AU$3.07 million in four local companies that will be developing "innovative" solutions for Defence. Sydney-based Saber Astronautics will walk away with a AU$1.2 million cash injection to continue the development of machine learning technology for autonomous identification and modelling of electronic threats. According to Defence, the proposed innovation could provide an ability to quantify signal threat characteristics that could be used to help protect its systems. The space engineering company said the work to detect degraded electronic signals is the second of a potential three-phase project using Saber Astronautics' advanced machine learning capability. "The application adds significant capabilities to Australian Defence and also has potential spinoffs for commercial space operations by autonomously protecting the quality of satellite data during solar storms," the company explained.


AI Ethics: A Golden Age of Philosophy - Toby Walsh

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Toby discusses his early dreams of building thinking machines inspired by science fiction - and covers AI Ethics and current to near term applicability in intelligent systems. Toby Walsh is a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence. He was recently named in the inaugural Knowledge Nation 100, the one hundred "rock stars" of Australia's digital revolution. He is Guest Professor at TU Berlin, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at UNSW and leads the Algorithmic Decision Theory group at Data61, Australia's Centre of Excellence for ICT Research. He has been elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and has won the prestigious Humboldt research award as well as the 2016 NSW Premier's Prize for Excellence in Engineering and ICT.


Newcrest blazing a trail with big data

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Addressing the South Australian government's recent Copper to the World conference in Adelaide, Newcrest's chief information and digital officer, Gavin Wood, gave a rundown on what had already been achieved at Newcrest with data science, virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence. He also talked about the benefits delivered by crowd sourcing, although this can also create some unique challenges of its own. "If you can imagine, an experienced operator at a site being told by a university student in Argentina the answer for optimising their part of the plant is quite different to something they believe from their experience of 20 or so years. Those are real challenges for our business," Wood said. He said data science coupled with machine learning had alr...


IBM scores AU$1b for whole-of-government IT

ZDNet

The Australian government has signed a new five-year agreement with IBM, giving the multinational AU$1 billion to be a whole-of-government "technology partner", effective immediately. According to Big Blue, this will make it easier, more efficient, and cost-effective to access emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing. Although the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) led the agreement, it is currently attempting to spread the AU$6.5 billion spent annually on IT by the Australian government across the smaller players by refreshing the way the government procures IT-related services. That aside, under the arrangement, IBM and the DTA will convene a group made up of government and industry folk to "prioritise the introduction of new technologies to citizen services".


Would you like fries with your visa? CPSU says privatised visa system will upsell

ZDNet

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has said the two conglomerates in the running to build Australia's outsourced visa applicant processing system have shown a platform that attempts to upsell applicants. "The platform, as presented to staff, would see products like Qantas flights and Optus SIM cards pushed at visa applicants," the union said in a blog post. "Not only does this raise concerns about the Australian government seemingly endorsing these companies and their products, it also shows this push to privatise will reduce our visa system to nothing more than another way commercial interests can push their products and drive up their profits." The Department of Immigration and Border Protection -- now part of the Department of Home Affairs -- went to tender in September, seeking a provider to design, implement, and operate a new visa business. During the 2016-17 12-month period, 8.78 million visas were applied for, and the government expects this number to reach 13 million by 2026-27.