Autonomous Bus Trial Takes Off
Free trips on a futuristic shuttle were on offer last week in Ipswich, as the Ipswich City Council trials electric autonomous vehicles.
According to Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli the demonstration of the electric self-driving shuttle technology is an exciting component of the city’s smart city program.
“As a smart city, driverless technology is a long-term transport prospect, and one we are certainly investigating.”
The EasyMile EZ10, designed by a French company established in 2014, can cover short pre-defined routes. Embedded and localisation technologies help it navigate the route, and respond to environmental changes like moving pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles.
The driverless shuttle bus, which has been rolled out throughout Asia, the Middle East, North America and Europe can carry up to 12 people – six seated and six standing. A specially-designed ramp ensures the bus accessible to people with disabilities.
Each shuttle costs around $320,000, and can travel at speeds of up to 45 kilometres per hour.
When fully charged they can run for 14 hours from their lithium-ion battery, which charges overnight in eight hours.
Analysts estimate that the autonomous vehicle industry could add as much as US$7 trillion to the global economy each year. And more than 600,000 lives could be saved by 2040.
The race is on to see which motor company gets the rubber on the road first. General Motors plans to roll out self-driving cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019, with BMW following in 2021. Ford promises to have a fleet of autonomous vehicles delivering goods on U.S. roads by 2021.
Apple, Uber and Google are all working on their own AV technology platforms.
Back in Ipswich, chairman of the council’s economic development and digital city committee, councillor Paul Tully, says his city has already installed electric car chargers on smart light poles, and will soon start Australia’s largest cooperative intelligent transport system program.
“This program will fit about 500 cars with the most advanced technology to help avoid accidents, be aware of traffic congestion in real-time, keep cars to speed limits, warn drivers of bicycle riders and pedestrians, and help drivers brake safely,” Tully explains.