South Australia has launched a five-year trial of autonomous vehicle technology, putting a driverless electric shuttle bus on public roads on the outskirts of the capital, Adelaide.
The Flinders Express (‘FLEX’) launched yesterday offering a shuttle service between Clovelly Park Train Station and the Tonsley Innovation District, next to Flinders University.
There are plans to expand the service to other areas, such as the Flinders Medical Centre and the University’s Bedford Park campus, as well as the entire Bedford Park precinct, within 12 months.
The project, partly funded by the state government, uses a French-designed Navya Arma electric shuttle, travelling at up to 30km/h during the trial, and will carry up to 15 passengers.
The general public can try riding on the shuttle from today, June 20, using online bookings via the Flinders University website.
The University’s Head of Civil Engineering Professor Rocco Zito says the aim of the three-stage, $4 million project was not to prove the technology worked but expose the public to it and see how they respond in order to builder acceptance of autonomous vehicles.
“It’s not a question of if this technology will be on roads, but when,” he said.
“In order for driverless vehicles to become an integral part of our transport system we need to trial these vehicles in real operating conditions and encourage public participation and feedback.”
The project is being funded by the university, state government and industry partners Cohda Wireless, Renewal SA, SAGE Automation, Telstra, UPG, ZenEnergy and public transport operator Keolis Downe.
A six-bay solar recharge garage is currently under construction to house the bus and refuel it, and will also be available to the public to recharge their vehicles for free.
Here’s Zito explaining the project.