Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:11

Australia's first driverless bus being tested in WA


Trials of Australia's first driverless bus are being conducted by the Royal Automobile Club of WA, with the support of the state government and the City of South Perth.

The vehicle, known as the RAC Intellibus, has been making trips along the South Perth Esplanade between the Old Mill and Sir James Michael Park, a distance of about three kilometres.

Anne Still, general manager of public policy for the RAC, said more than 2000 people had taken part in the trial so far.

"More than 6000 people have so far registered to be part of the trial which is an incredibly positive indication of the amount of interest there is in this technology and the possibilities it could bring for the State,” she said.

The oldest participant in the trials has been a 100-year-old and 97% of those who have ridden the bus agree that it should play a role in future transport.

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Still said Rottnest Island, Perth Airport, aged care facilities, hospitals, Kings Park and a service similar to CAT buses were areas and uses that were being suggested.

“WA is truly leading the way when it comes to testing autonomous vehicle technology. While this is the first trial of driverless technology in Australia, in terms of complexity it is also one of the most progressive shuttle trials in the world.

“So far, the RAC Intellibus has completed 357 trips and travelled 1050 kilometres, almost the distance from Perth to Coral Bay.

"The trial will continue at South Perth to allow more people to use, experience and share their views on the technology so we can continue to explore the future impact it will have on WA."

The first public trial of driverless vehicles was undertaken in Singapore, beginning in August last year.

The Intellibus is fully electric and uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR), stereovision cameras, GPS, odometry and autonomous emergency braking to detect and avoid obstacles, Still said.

“Importing the bus from France was a challenge in itself. All vehicles being imported must comply with the Australian Design Rules, for example ensuring it has a steering wheel on the right hand side rather than the left.

"The Intellibus has no steering wheel at all, or a driver’s seat, brake pads, pedals or an accelerator. We were bringing in something entirely new."

iTWire asked the RAC what safety measures existed in the event that the vehicle veered off course and whether there was a purpose in people undertaking the trial – like shopping or going to a park.

The organisation has not responded to these queries, as also to questions about what made the WA trial, as it claimed, unique; what the vehicles were seen as being primarily deployed for in the future; or how long the trials would have to go on before commercialisation could be considered.

Photos: courtesy RAC


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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