Two Australian regional centres are readying for the age of autonomous vehicles, in which self-driving technology is expected to disrupt the way we do transport.
In the NSW coal town of Newcastle, the city council – having already started construction of its own 5MW solar farm – is looking for an operator to trial a driverless vehicle in public roads, in what the city says will be a first.
The trial, which will include a shuttle capable of carrying up to 12 people, will see the vehicle tested in busy street areas including on the harbour front and along beachside roads.
After an initial testing phase, the shuttle will be available for the public to ride free of charge.
“Our vision is to be a smart, liveable and sustainable global city by 2030,” the Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in a statement, adding that the opportunity will offer Newcastle the chance to become a leader in smart city technologies not only a national, but a global stage.
“Automated shuttles and driverless car technologies are at the cutting-edge of transport. This trial will help build our understanding of how the vehicles can fit into existing traffic-dominated cities and connect with existing transport networks.
The Newcastle trial will run for at least one year using $5 million funding received through the Federal Government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs program last year.
“City of Newcastle is partnering with a consortium of technology businesses to provide an integrated network for transport, energy and digital infrastructure to transform the city into a living lab,” Nelmes said.
In the Queensland city of Ipswich, the state’s Cooperative and Automated Vehicle Initiative (CAVI) will trial “cooperative” vehicles and infrastructure, as part of a program to ready the state for automated vehicles.
The Ipswich pilot will involve 500 vehicles, retrofitted with Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS) Pilot devices which will allow the vehicles to communicate with each other, relaying information about driving conditions including pedestrians, traffic and road hazards.
The Driven has contacted the TMR, who have not yet provided details on what models will be used for the test. However, we can confirm that next year at least one electric Renault Zoe will be used in the trials.
“Plans are underway to test vehicles with automated driving capabilities as part of the Department of Transport and Main Roads’ Cooperative and Highly Automated Driving (CHAD) Pilot,” Minister of Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said.
“In early 2019, we will receive a Renault Zoe EV, a Society of Automotive Engineers Level Four automated vehicle purpose built in France for our CHAD pilot.”
Conducted by the TMR, the Ipswich Connected Vehicle Pilot is expected to commence from late 2019.
The trials follow similar self-driving technology tests begun last month at Sydney’s Olympic Park, using a similar vehicle to the one to be used in the Newcastle trial.
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.