Hundreds sign up to ride a bus with no driver in Melbourne

Public eager to take part in La Trobe University autonomous vehicle trials

More than a thousand members of the public have expressed their desire to take a ride in La Trobe University’s new autonomous shuttle bus, with trials commencing next week.

Since November researchers at the university’s Bundoora campus have been testing the technical and safety capabilities of its 15-seater autonomous shuttle bus ‘The Autonobus’ built by French company Navya.

After clocking up hundreds of hours in trials, it is now time for the vehicle to welcome aboard its first public passengers, said director of La Trobe’s Centre for Technology Infusion, Professor Ani Desai.

“The public’s participation is essential. The success of all new technologies stands or falls with the end user adoption. That is why we are inviting anyone, not only the technology enthusiasts, to come and give us feedback. This feedback will help shape the future of transport in Victoria,” Desai said.

Until July, the Autonobus will make journey’s along a set route along the campus’ Science Drive. Two models will be trialled: An on-demand system, where customers can call the shuttle to pick them up from a choice of stops; and a timed system, running on a set timetable.

Target demographics include students and university staff, as well as attendees of the nearby Kingsbury Drive Sunday market and commuters making changes between tram and bus routes.

More than 400 people are already booked in to take a trip, with more being added daily.

The bus – which can reach speeds of 45km per hour, but averages at around 25km per hour – is fully electric and uses light detection and ranging (LIDAR), stereovision cameras, GPS, odometry and autonomous emergency braking to detect and avoid obstacles and maintain its course.

It is considered to have 'Level 4' automation (as defined by SAE International standardswhich means the vehicle can perform all safety critical driving functions without any occupants, however an operator will be supervising the vehicle during the public trials.

Partly funded by the Victorian Government’s Smarter Journeys Program, the Autonobus trials are a collaboration between VicRoads, Keolis Downer, La Trobe University, HMI, RACV and ARRB.

La Trobe becomes one a number of a growing number of locations where the public can take a driverless bus journey.

The RAC Intellibus – the same Navya-made model as the La Trobe Autonobus – has carried thousands of passengers on journeys around a route on open road on the South Perth foreshore since late last year.

The general public is expected to be able to take driverless trips at Sydney Olympic Park from later this year.

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Tags Melbournevictorian governmentVictoriaLa Trobe UniversityRACNAVYAautonomous vehicleHMI TechnologiesautonomousdriverlessCAV

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