Wednesday, 10 July 2019 18:15

Driverless bus to be trialled by City of Newcastle

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Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes checks out the city's driverless bus Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes checks out the city's driverless bus

An 11-seat driverless shuttle bus is ready to roll in the City of Newcastle in a 12-month trial servicing the city’s harbour foreshore.

Revealed for the first time on Wednesday by the city’s mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, the bus, although fully automated, will be able to be stopped by a “chaperone” via an override system if required.

“This is a major milestone for our smart city journey, and I look forward to working with Transport for NSW and partners Keolis Downer on this unique opportunity to make automated transport in Newcastle a reality,” councillor Nelmes said at Keolis Downer's Hamilton depot.

“The City’s vision for a smart, integrated transport network begins in earnest with the arrival of this new driverless vehicle, which we propose connecting with Newcastle’s integrated public transport network.

“We are planning for passengers to be able to take in views of the city’s harbour along the proposed 2km loop service, making it very appealing to tourists. A larger circuit will include some of Newcastle’s other beachside destinations after a couple of months.”

Keolis Downer new mobilities manager Sue Wiblin said the trial would meet all relevant safety standards.

“Over the next month, we will complete a rigorous safety-testing program, on road and off road, to prepare the vehicle for customer services.

“In-built computers and sensing systems capable of detecting obstacles, anticipating movement and evaluating risk of collision are what sets this vehicle apart from the risks associated with human-controlled cars.”

Unveiling of the driverless bus follows confirmation of what mayor described as Newcastle’s standing as a leading smart city after it won a brace of awards at the IDC Smart Cities Asia-Pacific Awards this week.

The smart city infrastructure component of the Hunter Innovation Project (HIP) was announced outright winner of the ‘Land Use and Planning’ category among afield of cities, including Singapore.

The HIP — a $17 million collaboration between the City of Newcastle, the NSW Government, University of Newcastle, Newcastle Now and Hunter DiGiT — has introduced Australia’s largest installation of smart poles, smart lighting, free public WiFi, an environmental sensor network and an Internet of Things lab to Newcastle’s streets,

The city’s Smart Moves Newcastle – Mobility Projects, under which the driverless vehicle was delivered, also shared top honours in the ‘Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Public Transit and Rideshare’ category with Chinese tech city Shenzhen.

“Of the seven Australian projects nominated as finalists in the 2019 round of the IDC Smart City awards, Newcastle was the only city to come away with wins,” Nelmes said.

“It speaks volumes for our growing stature that we are mixing it with, and beating, established Asia-Pacific smart cities like Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Busan, Auckland, Taipei and Singapore."

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