Drone in sky

Testbed Australia

Focus Areas: Transport and Mobilities
Research Program: People

Australia has a long history as a site for scientific experimentation. The Australian land and its people have, over the course of its colonial history, been continuously treated as a “low risk” site for the empirical testing of high-risk theories and procedures.

Most recently, Big Tech corporations have begun to experiment with the country’s potential as test bed for new features and products. The streaming service Spotify used Australia as a testing site for its then experimental Discover Weekly playlist. The dating app Tinder piloted features like “Tinder Social” and “Super Like” in the Australian market before releasing it globally. And Facebook trialled its 2018 upvote downvote feature first on users based in Australia and New Zealand.

While techniques like prototyping, beta testing, and other forms of testing “in the wild” are common practices, the impacts of such testing on communities and environments are under-examined.

This project explores the role of testing, prototyping, trialling and other techniques of controlled experimentation for AI and other automated decision-making systems in Australia.

It focuses on transport and mobilities, investigating techniques of testing for the deployment of automated systems, such as those used in Autonomous vehicle (AVs) and commercial delivery drones.

It brings together expertise in feminist science and technology studies (STS), critical legal studies, and media studies to address questions such as:

  • What are the features of the environment and landscape that make Australia well-suited as a site for testing?
  • Which communities are targets for testing?
  • How does policy and other forms of state discourse contribute to creating an ideal regulatory environment for testing?
  • What are the potential harms and benefits involved?


Thao Phan

Dr Thao Phan

Lead Investigator,
Monash University

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Jake Goldenfein

Dr Jake Goldenfein

Chief Investigator,
University of Melbourne

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Michael Richardson

Assoc Prof Michael Richardson

Associate Investigator,

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