Driverless shuttle trialled in SA
South Australia is introducing its first driverless electric shuttle for public roads.
The shuttle will start transporting members of the public around the Tonsley Innovation District this week, as part of a five-year trial of autonomous vehicle technology.
Funded by the state government and industry partners, the Flinders Express (or ‘FLEX’) will initially provide ‘first mile–last mile’ shuttle services between the nearby Clovelly Park Train Station and Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building (MAB), then connections to bus stops on the main South Road and businesses within the Tonsley precinct.
The French-designed Navya Arma electric shuttle can carry up to 15 passengers at speeds of up to 40 km/h, but will travel at up to 30 km/h during the trial. FLEX will be managed by an onboard chaperone informing users of the technology and ensuring safety.
Within a year the shuttle will run to the Flinders Medical Centre and the university’s Bedford Park campus before using main arterial roads around the entire Bedford Park precinct.
Flinders University Head of Civil Engineering Professor Rocco Zito said commuters arriving by traditional bus or train to Tonsley can book a ride online at the Flinders website.
“Demonstrations and trials of these driverless vehicles that involve the community are a really good way of building acceptance of this type of new technology,” he said.
“Our aim is not to prove the technology but rather expose the public to this new type of transport service and learn from their responses and reactions to help driverless vehicles gain general acceptance.”
The three-stage, $4 million driverless shuttle project — for which Flinders University, the RAA and Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) have partnered with industry supporters Cohda Wireless, Renewal SA, SAGE Automation, Telstra, UPG, ZenEnergy and public transport operator Keolis Downer — last year received $1 million from the state government’s $10 million Future Mobility Lab Fund.
“It’s not a question of if this technology will be on roads, but when,” said Zito.
“It’s all part of an awareness campaign to promote carbon-neutral transport options in SA. In order for driverless vehicles to become an integral part of our transport system, we need to trial these vehicles in real operating conditions and encourage public participation and feedback.
“This research project is a perfect example of how universities, government and industry can collaborate to provide enhanced mobility services that can really make a difference to people’s lives.”
In one of Australia’s leading driverless projects, the vehicle will be docked within a six-bay solar recharge garage to be constructed within two months near the Mitsubishi Administration building. The solar garage will also be available to the public wanting to recharge their own electric vehicles for free.
Transport operator Keolis Downer is involved with the Flinders project, having collaborated on the Navya autonomous shuttle projects in Victoria and other cities around the world including Paris, Las Vegas, and Montreal.
“We are excited to be part of this trial with Flinders University,” said Keolis Downer CEO David Franks.
“Autonomous shuttles will change the way people travel and, by exploring how these vehicles can complement existing transport solutions, we aim to encourage the use of public transport and create more livable and sustainable environments for communities.”
Many existing automobile manufacturers and new companies are expected to have driverless electric car models on the road by 2020, with the world market for autonomous electronic vehicles expected to be worth US$7 billion by 2050.
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