Flinders University launches driverless electric shuttle trial

A five-year public trial of a driverless electric shuttle at Flinders University has been launched, with assistance from the South Australian Government.

The $4 million driverless shuttle project received $1 million from the SA Government’s Future Mobility Lab. The Flinders Express (FLEX) will initially provide first mile to last mile shuttle services.

The electric shuttle is able to carry up to 15 passengers at speeds of up to 40 kilometres and hour, managed by an on board chaperone informing users of the technology and ensuring safety.

The vehicle will be docked within a six bay solar recharging garage, which will also be available to the public wanting to recharge their own electric vehicles for free.

Flinders University Head of Civil Engineering Professor Rocco Zito said commuters arriving by traditional bus or train to Tonsley can book a ride online on the Flinders website.

“Demonstrations and trials of these driverless vehicles that involve the community are a really good way of building acceptance of this type of new technology,” said Professor Zito.

“Our aim is not to prove the technology but rather expose the public to this new type of transport service and learn from their responses and reactions to help driverless vehicles gain general acceptance,” he said.

SA Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government Stephan Knoll said it was an exciting step forward for autonomous vehicle technology in South Australia.

“Initially FLEX will shuttle people around the Tonsley campus integrating with the Tonsley rail station, with future plans to extend to the Bedford Park and Flinders Medical Centre campus and local public transport hubs,” Mr Knoll said.

“South Australia is ahead of the curve in this space and was the first state to enact legislation to allow on-road trials of autonomous vehicles.

“We have since developed a critical mass of projects that are trialling innovative transport technologies,” he said.
Mr Knoll said trials such as this one will cement SA’s position as an ideal location to demonstrate, develop and contribute to the applied research of similar technologies.

“Many existing automobile manufacturers and new companies are expected to have driverless electric car models on the road by 2020, with the world market for autonomous electronic vehicles expected to be worth US $7 billion by 2050,” Mr Knoll said.

“South Australia is well placed to capitalise on the significant economic and job opportunities that exist in this sector as this technology continues to advance.

“Job creation opportunities exist in smart transport system development and integration solutions, big data analysis, autonomous technology development, predictive transport analytics, cyber security and communications solutions.”

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