Would you trust this thing today?
Vehicular autonomy, long considered to be the reserve of some time in the future that isn’t today at all, is here today, in the form of a benign-looking autonomous shuttle that plies a route in Bundoora, Victoria. The Navya shuttle, a 15-seat intelligent bus with no steering wheels or pedals, will be running around the LaTrobe University campus there, and will serve not only as transport but also as a platform to collect data on how the general public interacts with autonomous vehicles, and how autonomous vehicles interact with the general public.
The Navya project is a collaboration between LaTrobe University, the Australian Road Research Board, HMI Technologies, the RACV, and VicRoads. Earlier this year, the same group of pro-vehicular autonomy bodies came together to launch a semi-autonomous driving trial program that would take pace along the Eastlink-Tullamarine-Citylink corridor, done in partnership with Volvo, Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.
“This is an exciting opportunity to look into the future of transport and how autonomous vehicles can be used to meet passenger demand and complement existing transport options. The purpose of this trial is to gain better understanding of the technology. How it works, how it can best be developed, and how it can be implemented. We will look at all aspects of safety, operations, and integration.” — Bryce Prosser, General Manager (Public Policy & Corporate Affairs), RACV
In other parts of the world, autonomous vehicles continue to rack up mile after mile, collecting data that will eventually lead to software that can pilot our cars safely in an uninterrupted and unfused manner. It’s worth mentioning that presently, legislation globally has restricted the operation of truly driverless vehicles, with all ‘autonomous’ cars having a human operator or supervisor sat behind the controls. These supervised cars measure ‘failure rates,’ or the frequency that a human has to intervene when the car is driving on its own, and how far it’s managed to travel between interventions.
This represents the first phase by the forward-thinking authorities in South Australia to push the autonomous vehicle initiative, and is the first public-service vehicle of its kind on that end of the world, as Western Australia trialled a similar serviced called the ‘Intellibus’ about a year ago (which was also based on the Navya model seen here.
Plenty of industry players are angling to make Australia a research and development hotspot for autonomous vehicles and the like, so don’t be too surprised should you see more and more driverless vehicles on the road. This is the future after all, so you’d better get used to it.
Stay tuned to CarShowroom for more updates as they come.