Wednesday, 21 December 2016 00:19

Victoria on the road with first semi-autonomous vehicle trials Featured

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The Victorian Government along with the Australian Road Research Board and La Trobe University have completed the first successful trials of a semi-automated vehicle on Melbourne’s EastLink motorway.

ConnectEast, the private company operator of EastLink, also worked with the government on the trial using the latest Volvo S90 in live traffic.

The trial is part of an 18-month research project that the government says will enable Victorian drivers to safely commute on the tollway with their hands off the wheel by 2018.

Claimed as the first of its kind research project, the trials, which will be ongoing, will assess the use of semi-autonomous cars with safety features such as lane keep assist, auto braking and adaptive cruise control.

The testing will be conducted in traffic on EastLink to assess whether the latest technology is compatible with current infrastructure such as road signs and line markings.

The state government says the trials will test a wide range of cars fitted with semi-autonomous driver-assistance technology that require the driver’s hands on the wheel and are already being sold in Australia.

Following the research, ConnectEast will work with car manufacturers and VicRoads to ensure that vehicle technology and road infrastructure allows for the safe introduction of hands free driving.

The Andrews Government says it is already developing the necessary legislative changes.

 “We’re working with Australia’s top road researchers and road operators to ensure we’re at the forefront of this technology to reduce congestion and increase road safety,” says the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan,

“This trial will pave the way for EastLink to support vehicle manufacturers activating the technology so commuters can enjoy all the benefits of safe hands-free driving.”

The EastLink trial builds on the recent announcement by the government of public consultation now underway on the Future Directions Paper, which will inform Victoria’s future policies on automated vehicles and the start of hands-free driving trials on Victorian roads next year.

The ConnectEast trial has received $578,000 funding from the VicRoads Intelligent Transport System (ITS) Grants Programme.

The three stages of the semi-automated vehicle project include:

•    Developing a-first of its kind classification system for assessing Australian roads based on the level of automated vehicle features they support. Essentially a grading system so car manufacturers can enable hands-free driving, on roads that meet the criteria. The trial will test a wide range of cars fitted with semi-autonomous driver-assistance technology that are already being sold in Australia.

•    In the second half of 2017, stage two will test a range of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) technologies that allow communication between vehicles and road infrastructure.

•    Finally, stage three in 2018 will see a small number of semi-automated vehicles tested on EastLink with hands off the wheel technology. By the completion of the research project in 2018, it is expected that EastLink will support vehicle manufacturers activating the technology so commuters can safely enjoy hands-free driving, pending the necessary legislative changes being made.

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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