An electric and autonomous shuttle has taken on board its first passengers at Sydney’s Olympic Park, in what is part of a trial of the new mode of transport before services officially start in coming weeks.
The passengers, who won their tickets at the Sydney Royal Easter Show earlier this year, traveled in the shuttle built by French maker of autonomous vehicles Navya, joined by Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance.
The journey marks the beginning of the stage two trial for the driverless shuttle program, which commenced in August 2017 under the auspices of the mart Innovation Centre, along with HMI Technologies, NRMA, Telstra, IAG, Sydney Olympic Park Authority, and the University of Technology Sydney, on behalf of the NSW government.
The all-electric shuttle uses Level 4 autonomy, using technologies such as LiDAR and GNSS for positioning and obstacle detection.
Running on a electric drivetrain with up to 25kW power, its top speed is 25km/hr, and it carries a 33kWh battery for a theoretical 9 hours autonomy.
It can carry up to 12 passengers at a time, and features an autonomous emergency braking system.
“It’s very impressive,” one passenger said after the ride.
“It’s thrilling to see the future is already here and I look forward to seeing a lot more of these around town.”
“This is inveitable, this is a Wright brothers moment, the Wright brother changed the world by inventing flight, this is changing the world by making a much safer ground transport environment for everybody,” said another.
Constance says the ultimate goal of the trial is to explore how to best harness driverless technology to make it work for the people of NSW.
“We want to bring customers along on the journey, giving them the opportunity to experience this technology and respond to the vehicle so we can implement the feedback as we work towards a connected and automated future,” he says.
The driverless shuttle trial will continue over the coming weeks along Olympic Boulevard and people interested in booking a free ride on the shuttle can register their interest in taking a ride through the NSW Department of Transport website.
The trial will continue on nominated days until stage three commences in the first quarter of 2019.
The NSW government has also recently announced two more automated trials to be undertaken in NSW regional centres of Coffs Harbour and Armidale as well as partially automated trials on the Sydney Orbital network of roads.
“There is still some way to go before self-driving vehicles become common place on Australian roads, but as a Government we are ready to take the next step,” says Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.