Meet BusBot, the driverless bus being trialled by the NSW government that you hail with your smartphone

The BusBot in operation (Supplied)
  • New South Wales has taken another step towards the adoption of autonomous vehicles (AV), as the state trials an on-demand driverless bus in a retirement village in Coffs Harbour.
  • Retirees at the Marion Grove Retirement Village can summon the vehicle using a smartphone app and have the bus — dubbed the BusBot — drop them off where they need to go.
  • Multiple retirees are able to ride at once, with BusBot’s algorithms figuring out the most efficient route and schedule.

It’s unlikely any of the residents of Marion Grove Retirement Village ever dreamed a driverless bus was possible. Now many of them are not only seeing the vehicles at work but are some of the first people in the country to be counted as passengers in a new trial.

As autonomous vehicle technology continues to improve, an increasing number of Australian states are testing the technology, with the retirement village in Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid-north coast being the latest.

Seniors simply hail the so-called BusBot using an app on their smartphone, enter their destination and then get on board.

The trial is the product of a partnership between NSW Transport, bus operator Busways, AV technology provider EasyMile and US transport company Via.

“If autonomous vehicles are to reach their full potential for providing low-cost, efficient rides, they need to be shared by multiple passengers,” VIA CEO Daniel Ramot said in a media statement.

The technology allows multiple users to share the bus routes, with the bus using algorithms to figure out the most efficient routes.

The trial, which has so far been a success, could soon see more trials rolled out across the state as NSW Transport commits to making autonomous public transport a reality.

It marks the second phase of a three-location trial in Coffs Harbour, with Harbour Drive connecting the city’s CBD to be the next destination. Each phase involves an increasing degree of complexity to test the technology’s current limits.

Armidale is the other Australian city currently undergoing trials.

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