South Perth welcomes Australia’s first driverless bus

31/08/2016 - 15:32

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After 10 years of research and development, Australia’s first driverless electric shuttle bus made its public debut this afternoon as it cruised along the South Perth Esplanade.  

South Perth welcomes Australia’s first driverless bus
A driverless and electric shuttle bus has now become a reality with the public launch of the RAC Intellibus. Photo: Claire Pelliccia.

After 10 years of research and development, Australia’s first driverless electric shuttle bus made its public debut this afternoon as it cruised along the South Perth Esplanade.  

This is the first time the Royal Automobile Club of WA's Intellibus has driven on the open road alongside regular traffic, and marks the third and final stage of a trial series since its arrival in Perth in April this year.  

RAC has already conducted tests in partnership with NAVYA, a specialist technician and vehicle manufacturer, at RAC’s driving centre near Perth Airport.

It has also run on public roads but in a controlled setting, allowing only limited traffic interaction.

Members of the public have been invited to register for a chance to ride the RAC Intellibus and participate in the final stage of the trial, during which up to 11 passengers will travel between the Old Mill near the Narrows Bridge and Sir James Mitchell Park.

RAC chief executive Terry Agnew said the trial was an Australia first, and hoped it would start a conversation on further exploring driverless technology.

“The trial will help Western Australia develop a roadmap of changes that will need to occur for driverless vehicles to safely transition on to our roads and become an integrated part of our transport system,” he said.

Operating at an average speed of 25 kilometres per hour, with the capacity to reach a top speed of 45 kilometres per hour, the Western Australian community will be among the first in the world to experience a driverless vehicle in action.

City of South Perth Mayor Sue Doherty said South Perth was excited to support the joint initiative between RAC and the state government.

“In the future this innovative form of public transport has the potential to help alleviate traffic congestion by reducing the number of vehicles on the road and at the same time having a positive impact on the environment,” she said.

The French-made electric bus is equipped with stereovision cameras that can ‘see’ and detect objects, a GPS, as well as in-built autonomous emergency breaking.

It uses odometry (application of motion sensors) and light detection and ranging, which measures distance and builds a map of the surrounding environment by using ultraviolet light, to detect and avoid objects.

A recent RAC survey involving almost 1,000 Western Australians revealed 70 per cent of respondents believed that driverless technology would give more freedom and independence to those with mobility difficulties.

Although the RAC Intellibus does not currently have wheelchair access, there are plans to incorporate this into new models. 

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