Australian-first autonomous electric bus trial to commence in West Australia
Perth residents may soon be able to hop on a driverless, all-electric bus as part of a bold new plan by the RAC in Western Australia.
The European-made electric shuttle bus, which has a top speed of 45km/h and can carry up to 15 passengers, is scheduled to begin operations in Perth this year as part of a pilot trial funded by RAC.
Built by NAVYA SAS, a French transport company, the bus employs semi-autonomous radar- and camera-based technologies already available in many cars, which can steer, accelerate and brake themselves.
But the self-driving multi-passenger EV goes further by using a high-tech sensor suite to read street signs and detect bus stops, other vehicles and obstacles and then navigate around them.
The RAC WA has evidently been convinced of the bus’s potential as the group will start trialling the autonomous vehicle on private roads at its driver centre from April.
If the tests are successful, the RAC WA will work with the state government to begin legislating for the use of autonomous vehicles on public roads.
However, it’s this legal step which is proving to be the most challenging, since the question of who is liable if there’s a collision – or worse, a fatality – needs to be resolved.
The WA state government’s transport department is working with RAC WA during in the trial, but at this stage there is no set date on when the bus will begin testing on public roads.
In a press release titled ‘Autonomous vehicle trial the first of its kind [in] Australia’, WA transport minister Dean Nalder said his department was working with the RAC to ensure the shuttle bus complied with road and vehicle safety standards during the trial. But he said it was a matter of when, not if, the driverless electric bus hits Perth streets.
“It is not a matter of if this technology will come to WA, but when it will, and that time is fast approaching. Initially, the trials will be conducted at RAC’s driving centre, but eventually the shuttle will take to Perth roads,” Nalder said.
“It is important West Australians are aware this technology is not confined to Hollywood blockbusters, but is actually coming to Perth. To ensure we are working towards providing the best integrated and intelligent transport services and solutions for the state, it is important to trial new innovative modes of transport, and this is one of those modes,” said Nalder.
“Another of the safety features of the shuttle bus is its multi-sensor technology, providing 3D perception that allows it to map the environment, detect obstacles on the road and interpret traffic signs.”
In a world-first, an autonomous bus hit public roads in the Netherlands last month, and several European countries and the US state of California already allow the testing of driverless vehicles on public roads.
10 Feb 2016