The city of Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of New South Wales is to trial an automated public shuttle bus operated without a supervisor or driver, building on the city’s already impressive commitment to electric and autonomous public transport.
Australian bus company Busways launched its “BusBot” automated shuttle bus in Coffs Harbour at the beginning of 2019 in the first of three unique trial phases intended to test an EasyMile E10 driverless shuttle at varying levels of complexity.
“We wanted regional NSW to experience this technology firsthand and I’m excited to see this trial get underway,” said then Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey, speaking at the time.
“This is about doing our homework today so we can make our vehicles safer, improve mobility and help save lives on our roads.”
Over the following two years, BusBot went through trials starting with a nine-week trial at the Coffs Harbour Northern Breakwall, followed by a second phase at the Toormina Marian Grove Retirement Village during 2019, and a third phase at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden through the beginning of 2020.
At the end of March, the NSW Government extended the BusBot trial in Coffs Harbour to begin operating without a supervisor or driver, but with remote monitoring, a global first and an important next step in proving the value of autonomous public transport.
The driverless trial will again operate at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour, marking the first time in the world an automated passenger shuttle bus service has reached driverless operation.
“This is world-leading technology being pioneered in Coffs Harbour,” said Paul Toole, NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads.
“Regional NSW is leading the way in exploring how automated vehicle technology can help deliver a more reliable and accessible public transport offering and implement services in new areas.”
“We first saw the BusBot operate with a supervisor around the Northern Breakwall and the Marian Grove Retirement Village, before starting at the Botanic Garden in 2020, so it’s exciting to hit the next milestone by now removing that supervisor,” added Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh.
“The Coffs Harbour community has been thrilled to be a part of this history-making trial, with more than 10,000 locals and visitors between the ages of one and 103 taking part.”
Coffs Harbour also recently launched a three-week trial of Busways’ first electric bus around Coffs Harbour routes, using a Yutong E12 bus from Chinese commercial vehicle manufacturer Yutong.
Boasting a 374kWh battery capacity and a range of up to 400-kilometres on a single charge, the trial of the Yutong E12 was designed to provide Busways with data on how electric buses could run in regional areas, where longer distance routes are more common than in metro areas.
“Electric buses are our future and we’re pleased to be trialling the first electric bus on the north coast,” said Byron Rowe, Busways’ managing director.
“There’s a lot to do to reach a fully electric fleet such as innovative policymaking, joint planning, infrastructure requirements, and industry engagement, such as trials like this one.”
Tthe New South Wales Government plans to transition its entire bus fleet to zero emissions transport within the decade, starting with a goal of operating 120 electric buses by year’s end.